Christians are speaking out against a proposal in Scotland to ban parents from smacking their children, warning that there is already a ban in place against harsh corporal punishment and a new ban could criminalize "good parents."
The Rev. David Robertson, founder of the Solas Center for Public Christianity and former moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, said the new proposal was "completely unnecessary."
"It's already against the law to hit a child on the head or to hit with an implement or to shake. This is going to criminalize good parents, just for tapping their child on the hand," Robertson warned in a Christian Institute article on Tuesday.
The responce comes to Scottish Green MSP John Finnie's Private Members' Bill, which has called for an end to legal protections for parents who smack their children.
James Chalmers, Regius Professor of Law at the University of Glasgow, argued that parents who get convicted under such an anti-smacking law would receive a criminal conviction for assault.
Chalmers warned that it could have "consequences for employment and working or volunteering with children or vulnerable adults."
Even commentators opposed to any form of physical discipline suggested it would be wrong to criminalize parents for it.
"Smacking may be undesirable, criminalizing it is more so," wrote Gillian Bowditch of The Sunday Times.
"Social workers are snowed under with cases of children in real danger: the last thing they need is to be deluged with reports of frazzled parents skelping the backsides of their children," she added.
Bowditch also noted that close to 90 percent of the Scottish population smacks their children, which would present significant difficulties for police having to arrest, charge, and prosecute parents.
As the debate on whether parents should physically repremand their children by spanking or a smack to the hand continues, some Christian groups, such as Focus on the Family, have defended the use of corporal punishment.
"God created this mechanism [pain] as a valuable vehicle for instruction. When a parent administers a reasonable spanking in response to willful disobedience, a similar nonverbal message is being given to the child. The minor pain associated with this deliberate misbehavior tends to inhibit it, just as discomfort works to shape behavior in the physical world," the organization said in 2014.
The Rev. Beth Boisvert of the Community Church of Francestown (United Church of Christ) in New Hampshire told The Christian Post back then that she believes other methods should be used to discipline children.
"I think it proves — even when used, as some claim to do, in a controlled manner without anger — that those with power must do whatever they can to hold onto it. I think it is completely against Christian standards, and particularly the teachings of Jesus. But even Paul wrote a lot about how communities should engage with each other, and I think that goes for families as well," Boisvert told CP.
"Parenting is not easy, particularly if a child is strong-willed, defiant, and/or knows exactly how to push our buttons, but resorting to physical aggression is not the answer, and does nothing to fix the problem or the relationship," she added.