To Train Up a Child

 

Generally the NZCCL does not advocate censorship. Where possible, we believe, people should be free to make up their own minds what to read, and that the process of banning inhibits the free exchange of ideas.

The fact that a book advocates something that is against the law is not a good argument for banning it. Indeed the only way that our justice and legal systems may change is through challenge to them. So books that advocate the death penalty, the legalisation of marjijuana or the abolition of prisons may be raising legitimate debate about fundamental decisions that have informed our legal system for many years.

However civil rights and liberties have with them certain responsibilities. One of the main tenets of the NZCCL is that no person's rights should cause harm to others or deny other people their rights. Where it can be shown that other people will be harmed as a result of the showing of a film or the publication of a book, then there is a case for banning or otherwise censoring the book or film.

The practices advocated in the book by Michael and Debi Pearl, To Train Up a Child, are clearly outside the law. People who discipline their children on a regular basis, by spanking or using a rod, are promoting behaviour for which parents could be charged with assault.

But NZCCL would not push for the book's suppression on those grounds, objectionable as they may be, but on the grounds that the book has real potential to harm chidren. Child protection laws have been enacted in New Zealand, and the repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act has been undertaken because there is overwhelming evidence that hitting children can cause them long-term harm.

The promotion of violence against young children by some fundamentalist Christian groups has had a long history. In the mid 1980s a pamphlet from the local baptist church was calling for parents to hit their children every day, in order to teach them obedience. A large amount of the opposition to the repeal of Section 59 (which gave limited exemption from the crime of assault for parents disciplining children) was led by some church groups (though the repeal was of course supported by a great many others).

NZCCL was concerned that this book might justify for these people the right, or even necessity, to hit their children. In this way the book would have a ready readership of people ready to defy the law and start or renew systematic and regular beating of their children.

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