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The United Methodist Church's anti-spanking resolutions of 2004

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On 2004-MAY-31 the United Methodist Church's General Conference passed two anti-spanking resolutions -- each by an overwhelming vote. In doing so, they repudiated the teachings of their founder, John Wesley, who believed in the corporal punishment of infants and children was necessary "to break their rebellious wills and save their souls." 1

Delegates from the Grace United Methodist Church in Sioux City IA presented two petitions to the UMC 2004 General Conference.

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"Corporal Punishment by Parents and Caretakers:"

The first petition passed by a vote of 88 to 0, with 18 abstentions, from the Church and Society Committee. It was later overwhelmingly passed by a vote of 892 to 7 by the Assembly delegates. It was Petition Number 41038, (41038 CS R9999).

bulletWhereas, corporal punishment models aggressive behavior as a solution to conflict,
bulletWhereas, some research has associated corporal punishment with increased aggression in children and adults, increased substance abuse, increased risk of crime and violence, low self-esteem, and chronic depression,
bulletWhereas it is difficult to imagine Jesus of Nazareth condoning any action that is intended to hurt children physically or psychologically,
bulletWhereas, time outs and deprivation of privileges are as effective as corporal punishment in stopping undesirable behavior,
bulletWhereas, the effectiveness of corporal punishment decreases with subsequent use and therefore leads caretakers to hit children more severely,
bulletWhereas, children must eventually develop their own conscience and self discipline, which are fostered by a home environment of love, respect and trust,

Therefore, be it resolved that the United Methodist Church encourages its members to adopt discipline methods that do not include corporal punishment of their children. And be it further resolved that the United Methodist Church encourages congregations to offer opportunities for dialogue and education on effective discipline of children. 2

The second "whereas" is an apparent reference to some of the long-term studies that have been made in Ontario, Canada and New Zealand.

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"Corporal Punishment in Schools and Child Care Facilities:"

The first petition also passed by a vote of 892 to 7. It was Petition Number 41037, (41037-CS-R9999).

bulletWhereas, schools and child care facilities are the only institutions in America in which striking another person for the purpose of causing physical pain is legal,
bulletWhereas, corporal punishment is humiliating and degrading to children and sometimes causes physical injury,
bulletWhereas, it is difficult to imagine Jesus of Nazareth condoning any action that is intended to hurt children physically or psychologically,
bulletWhereas, corporal punishment sends a message that hitting smaller and weaker people is acceptable,
bulletWhereas, corporal punishment is used most often on poor children, minorities, children with disabilities, and boys,
bulletWhereas, there are effective alternatives to corporal punishment that teach children to be self disciplined rather than to submit out of fear,
bulletWhereas, schools and child care centers should inspire children to enjoy learning and school and child care personnel should be able to encourage positive behavior without hitting children,

Therefore, be it resolved that The United Methodist Church calls upon all states to enact laws prohibiting corporal punishment in schools and day and residential child care facilities. 3

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References used:

  1. Rita Swan, "The United Methodist Church's resolutions against corporal punishment," Center for Effective Discipline, at: http://www.stophitting.com/
  2. Petition #41038, "Corporal Punishment by Parents and Caretakers," United Methodist Church, 2004, at: http://www.umc.org/
  3. Petition #41037, "Corporal Punishment in Schools and Child Care Facilities," United Methodist Church, 2004, at: http://www.umc.org/

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Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-FEB-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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