On corporal punishment

Dear Editor,

At present, The Bahamas is not prepared to ban corporal punishment in schools even though many of the developed countries of the world have outlawed physical discipline in private and public schools. This builds a compelling case for all jurisdictions to abolish corporal punishment.

Scholarly literature indicates that numerous leading professional bodies and special interest groups do not support corporal punishment in schools: the American Medical Association; the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; the American Academy of Pediatrics; the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health; American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch; Council of Europe; the Royal College of Psychiatrists; the Canadian Pediatric Society; the Australian Psychological Society; National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Furthermore, some 128 countries have abolished corporal punishment in schools.

The question is, what are we to do? Should we join them or continue on our own way?

The legal and social arguments for prohibition are widely accepted. It is apparent that for us, the laissez-faire attitude is more our stance.

Do not do anything right now. Wait and see when the Bahamian people will turn the corner, and then abolish the use of corporal chastisement. Or, when the pressure from the international community becomes so coercive, then Parliament will enact the new law.

Over the years, it seems that every political directorate has tiptoed around the issue.

Could it be that the powers that be know that the Bahamian people are not ready now to ban corporal punishment in the school and home, and that to oppose it will incur significant political loss?

If a referendum is conducted today, it probably would show that the majority of Bahamians across the socioeconomic spectrum still support corporal discipline for children.

For many Bahamians, it is a God-given right to use corporal discipline as a means of instilling values and building character.

In fact, for some, corporal punishment is a universal and biblical mandate. Here is a case where belief rules the day, a belief that is based on the Bible, the inspired, inerrant, infallible and authoritative Word of God.

For the Christian, the Bible is the standard for faith and practice, by which all thoughts and actions should be tried. Hence, once the correct interpretation is established, then the application of its truth should be followed.

In order to change this cultural norm or to reaffirm the traditional/conservative position on corporal punishment, it is therefore imperative that our qualified Christian theologians (men and women who have completed high-level courses in hermeneutics, the original languages of the scriptures, theology and training from recognized seminaries) clearly enunciate the scriptural position on corporal punishment, and prepare to give a full and objective exposition of the biblical texts on the matter.

Thoughtful regard must be given to the tenets of Christianity – transcending values – since they constitute the most dominant cultural norms in The Bahamas.

In this regard, the Christian Council should be one of the primary agencies to provide the government with a sound scriptural exposition on corporal punishment of children.

As a part of its frame of reference, the following questions, inter alia, should be answered:

What is corporal punishment?

Is corporal punishment a biblical method for disciplining children? If so, then this short battery of questions should be considered:

How should it be administered?

Are boys only to be spanked?

At what age should children receive corporal punishment?

What instrument should be used to mete out the punishment?

Furthermore, what is the interpretation of passages such as Proverbs 10:13; 13:24; 20:30; 22:15; 23:13-14; 26:3; 29:15; and Deut. 21:18-21?

Also, and perhaps more importantly, are the interpretations, whether for or against corporal punishment, prescriptive or descriptive?

Another important consideration on the matter is: Should the Hebrew word “shebet” (often translated “rod” in the KJV) be interpreted in a symbolic and/or literal sense(s)?

After the Christian Council has completed its report, then it should be presented to the government of The Bahamas, and subsequently a white paper should be published for public discussion and feedback.

“Let God be true and every man a liar.” – Romans 3:4.

– Rev. Perry R. Cunningham

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