Corporal punishment debate renews in wake of Dollar case

5:54 PM, Jun 11, 2012   |    comments
Creflo Dollar (Getty Images file)
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ATLANTA, GA -  "Personally I spank kids when they need it," said James Guthrie, a father of four from Kennesaw.

James Guthrie says it's a matter of setting boundaries with his four children -- and showing them he means business when there's a test of wills.

"I'm not saying that has to do with spanking per se. But I'm saying when a parent says something, that parent needs to mean what he says, and then he has to be willing to enforce it," said Guthrie, a middle school teacher.

A couple of generations ago, corporal punishment was commonplace.  Now it's sometimes a spectacle, on video uploaded to Youtube.  Or it's the centerpiece of a criminal case, like the one made against megachurch preacher Creflo Dollar. 

Dollar was arrested Friday.  A police report said he beat and choked his 15 year old daughter during an argument about a party.  In the pulpit Sunday, Dollar denied harming the girl. 

In social media, backers of corporal punishment came forward with comments like "the lil' girl got what she deserved," and "Creflo Dollar being locked up for punishing his child is a slap in the face to anyone who believe (sic) in not sparing the rod."

Yet child abuse organizations see grave danger in corporal punishment -- of the kind alleged in the police report against Pastor Dollar.

"There's a potential for a parent, when spanking a child, to lose their temper and spank more aggressively than they wish to," said Carol Neal Rossi, director of Prevent Child Abuse Georgia.  "And so if we can take the spanking element out of the equation altogether, then we would decrease the risk that the parent would harm a child in anger."

"It's got to be done at the appropriate level," said Guthrie, who argues that it's useless to spank teenagers because it breeds only resentment.

Guthrie agrees there are corporal punishment dangers -- and says it's the parent's job to know them.

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