Heimlich questions the sense of applying the Scripture literally in modern times. "Many Christians believe the Bible is divinely inspired and interpret its passages to be literally true," she wrote in the chapter titled "Child Maltreatment and The Bible." "Evangelical Christians, who tend to believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, make up more than one-quarter of the country's population."
While Heimlich acknowledges that the Bible contains passages that glorify children, she also states in her book, "The Bible was written a very long time ago, when children had few rights, if any." In addition, she writes, "They were largely viewed as the property of their fathers, who could give them away or sell them. The sacred text reflects this outlook, not just in what it says about children but in what it doesn't say." She claims that when the Bible does speak of children, "it often depicts them as victims of abuse and neglect."
"One very good reason why conservative Christians in studies have shown repeatedly to be bigger spankers than other types of Christians, is because there are theological roots there," Heimlich said when speaking to CP and Pearl recently.
The author seems convinced that the deaths of Paddock and Schatz (as well as Williams, who is not mentioned in the book), might not have happened if Pearl, a man many view as a religious authority, did not emphasize "physical punishment" so much in his teachings.
"The word spanking is often times used in a kind of casual way, as sort of a cute-sounding word," she said. "What spanking is is the infliction of physical pain or discomfort to get a child to do what you want him or her to do." The fact that the parents of the abused children were familiar with Pearl's teachings is significant, Heimlich argued.
"They [parents of the killed children] really looked up to this man as being someone that could instruct them on how to raise their children," Heimlich said. "And certainly Mr. Pearl has never said: you should abuse children."
However, she continued, one cannot forget that there is an "untold number of cases where children are abused and suffer but they don't make the headlines because they survive."
"These cases where these parents have actually killed children – it wasn't necessarily done out of this explosive, angry motivation," Heimlich said, in response to Pearl's statement that he discourages parents from spanking in anger. "In the case of Lydia Schatz , she was whipped with the instrument that Mr. Pearl advocates, a quarter-inch plumbing line, for nine hours. And they took breaks and they reflected and prayed during this time. So we can't just assume that anyone that uses his methods and ends up hurting children, it's just because they have a screw loose, or they're mentally ill. Or they had huge problems with anger management. It's all often done in a very systematized way."
Heimlich was also critical of Pearl's teachings that, in her opinion, "break children's will," like the pastor's articles that instruct parents to not let the children "dominate" them.
Pearl, again, renounced any responsibility for influencing these abusive parents.
He also denied that he recommends spanking "because the Bible says so," as some journalists suggested before, and said he would not "hide behind the Bible" to excuse violent methods of child-rearing. In fact, he said, religion should not be used as an excuse for practicing certain child raising methods.
"When you start using God against your children and use religion, then you start driving them away from God," he said. "And the parent begins to think that they have an authority that goes beyond that which is rational and sane."
"I think that all about parenting methods ought to be open to the ring of public debate," Pearl added. "I would never hide behind the Bible, behind a divine document, and say that we do these things because God told us to do them. If they're not sound, if they're not sound psychologically, they're not sound emotionally, if the fruit of them does not prove to be positive then we should not do it. That's why I have done extensive study and discovered dozens of studies that confirm that spanking has positive results when it's done by loving parents. And on the other hand, when parents don't spank their children, but use (alternative) methods, they get less effective results."