Is Spanking a Religious Duty?

DOVER, Ohio, May 3, 2005 — -- Tyler Wallick says it is out of faith and love that he spanks his children. He is one of a number of fundamentalist Christians, who in their literal interpretation of the Bible, regard corporal punishment as a religious and parental duty.

Wallick says his boys -- Trey, 10, and Drew, 4, -- only get spanked with a belt when they're dishonest or disrespectful.

For justification, Wallick points to the Old Testament, which says in the book of Proverbs: "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly."

"The bottom line is -- people who do not think it is OK to paddle their children do not believe God's word," he said.

Wallick know that he and his wife's philosophy of parenting runs almost completely counter to what most child psychologists believe. Parenting experts largely argue spanking is bad for children. They recommend time out or taking away privileges.

Encouraged by evangelical speakers and proliferating spanking Web sites, many Christian parents ignore studies that say spanking teaches violence.

Joey Salvati of New Kingston, Pa., is a carpenter who makes paddles and gives them away online. He says spanking must never be done out of anger.

"You give them a swat or two," Salvati said. "You give them a hug. You talk about it. It is over. It's done."

It was an ad for one such device -- a nylon whipping stick designed specifically to spank children -- that provoked Susan Lawrence of Arlington, Mass., herself a Christian, to launch a Web-based crusade to outlaw spanking.

She says some Evangelicals are wrongly relying on verses from the Old Testament -- with its wrathful God -- when they should be looking to the gentle Jesus of the New Testament.

'You Don't Treat People Like Animals'

"Jesus, for instance, said children are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven," Lawrence said. "And you don't treat people like that, like they're circus animals."

The issue is causing some division among Christians. The United Methodists issued a 2004 proclamation against all corporal punishment of children, and a number of Catholic dioceses have spoken out against it as well.

But some say the rift is about more than corporal punishment; it is about interpretation of the Bible and the direction of Christianity itself. Many argue the Old Testament lays down plenty of laws Christians no longer follow.

"Why don't we also keep slaves now? Stoning our daughters who may be gotten pregnant before marriage? All that is in the Bible [Old Testament] too," said Al Crowell, director of the San-Francisco based advocacy group Christians for Nonviolent Parenting.

None of that diminishes Wallick's belief that corporal punishment is God's will. As proof that it works, he says he cannot remember the last time he had to spank his children.

ABC News' Dan Harris filed this report for "World News Tonight."