An attempt to bring back corporal punishment by teachers and parents of children at four independent Christian schools was rejected by the House of Lords today.
The teachers and parents claimed at a hearing before five Law Lords in December that the ban on corporal punishment infringed their human rights.
They said their schools were set up specifically to provide a Christian education based on Biblical observance and this meant the use of corporal punishment on a limited basis as part of their beliefs.
Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, giving the lead ruling today, said their beliefs “involve inflicting physical violence on children in an institutional setting”.
He went on: “Parliament was bound to respect the claimants’ beliefs in this regard, but was entitled to decide that manifestation of these beliefs in practice was not in the best interests of children.”
His dismissal of the appeal was echoed by the other four Law Lords.
Both the High Court and the Court of Appeal have already thrown out the argument that the 1996 Education Act, which prohibits smacking, infringes the parents’ and teachers’ religious freedoms and right to an education of their choice.
During these earlier court challenges, lawyers representing the teachers and parents cited passages from the Bible, including Proverbs Chapter 23:13-14: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.
“Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.”
And Chapter 13: 24: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”
The Court of Appeal had ruled that infliction of physical punishment for an offence committed at school could be achieved by contacting parents and leaving it to them to carry out reasonable chastisement.
In this way, there was no question of parents’ religious freedoms being in conflict with the Education Act’s ban on smacking, the appeal judges said.
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