An Indiana mother says it is well within her religious freedom to beat her children with coat hangers.
An Indianapolis woman has been charged with felony child abuse for spanking her child with a plastic coat hanger, but says she was well within her right to do so because of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
The mother, a 30-year-old Burmese native was granted political asylum in the United States and says that her disciplinary actions toward her children are of a Christian nature and therefore she should not be prosecuted for it.
The Indystar reports that Kin Park Thaing quoted scriptures in the courtroom, saying that a parent who, “spares the rod, spoils the child," and: "Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol."
The government is not allowed to interfere with someone’s religious beliefs according to RFRA which was enacted in 2015 unless in extreme cases when they must step in and then it is only a limited intervention.
In addition to RFRA, the state of Indiana allows parents to use objects such as belts and cords to spank their children which may complicate the case even more.
Court documents say that on February 3, Thaing used the coat hangers to whip both of her children; a 7-year-old son and his 3-year-old sister because the oldest was doing something that could have seriously harmed his sister.
After the alleged beating Thaing told both children to pray for forgiveness.
"I was worried for my son's salvation with God after he dies," said Thaing in court documents. "I decided to punish my son to prevent him from hurting my daughter and to help him learn how to behave as God would want him to."
It was only a few days later when her son's teacher discovered the wounds after he patted him on the back and the child flinched.
The child was taken to Riley Hospital for Children, where a doctor found, "36 bruises across the boy's back, thigh and left arm."
Greg Bowles is representing Thaing in this case and says in a six-page memorandum filed on Aug. 5, that his client was well within her rights to use such measures and that the state should not interfere.
However, Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Matt Savage rebutted in another document saying that Thaing may be able to use “reasonable corporal punishment,” but her actions were far beyond reasonable.
Thaing’s attorney is also claiming that cultural differences should also factor into his client’s behavior, and she has already completed a parenting class as a part of a dismissed civil case.
Her children have since been taken into child protective custody, and she has said according to IndyStar that she now knows there are better ways to discipline her children.
Thaing is charged with battery as a level five felony and neglect as a level six felony.
Battery carries a prison sentence of one to 10 years; neglect carries a sentence of six months to two-and-half years, according to Indystar.
The judge in this case has denied a request to dismiss the case by Thaing's lawyer, and they will appear in court on Oct.19.