A state court's ruling about parents' freedom to spank their children is a worrisome one, says an attorney.
Liberty Counsel attorney Harry Mihet says a court case in Massachusetts is troubling because the judges frowned on a husband and wife who use corporal punishment on their two children based on their religious views.
Melanie and Gregory Magazu, who are raising two girls, applied to become foster parents. But the application was rejected because they spank their children.
The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families forbids corporal punishment for children placed in foster care, and the applicants had agreed with that requirement.
In its ruling this week, the state high court agreed with the state department that foster children should not be placed in a home where spanking takes place.
"That is an amazing abuse of power," says Mihet, "that should shock the conscience of all freedom-loving Americans."
Responding to the ruling, law professor Eugen Volokh wrote in The Washington Post that the Massachusetts high court disregarded court precedent, and the state's own constitution, when it ruled against the Magazus.
Quoting from the ruling, Vokokh noted that the husband and wife told state officials that they spank only occasionally if their daughters are repeatedly disobedient, and they called spanking a "small part" of their parenting decisions.
The daughters are disciplined in private, the couple said, and so the foster children would not observe the punishment.
But the state agency responded that foster children should not be in the presence of spanking, since many of them come from abusive homes. The Magazus were hoping to eventually adopt the foster kids.
The husband and wife learned in 2013 that their application was denied due to the spanking.
The state court ruled the Magazus can believe whatever they choose about spanking and corporate punishment, says Mihet, "but they do not have the freedom to act on those beliefs or to put those beliefs into practice."