EWTN News, September 14, 1999

Massachusetts Supreme Court considers spanking by parents

BOSTON (CWNews.com) - The Massachusetts Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments in case in which a Protestant minister said he has the right to discipline his child with a light spanking with a belt, but state child welfare agencies said he is engaged in abuse.

Lawyers for the Rev. David Cobble said the minister and his wife "adhere strictly to the Bible and what the Bible teaches" in disciplining their children. But the state Department of Social Services in 1997 received a report from a teacher that Judah Cobble, then 9, had said he was afraid to bring home a bad report card because he would be spanked. The teacher notified DSS.

DSS, after investigating the teacher's claim, said the severity and frequency of the spankings put the youth at risk and amounted to abuse, and threatened to remove the boy from the Cobble home. Cobble appealed, but the DSS was upheld by a Superior Court ruling.

Questions by the five-member high court indicated a lack of concern over the religious aspect of the case and focused rather on where to draw the line between spanking and abuse. The court is expected to rule in three to four months.

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