A Chicago-area Baptist pastor faces misdemeanor charges of battery for allegedly spanking a 12-year-old girl with a piece of wood.

Police arrested Daryl Bujak, 30-year-old pastor of First Missionary Baptist Church in Elgin, Ill., last Wednesday. Police said the girl’s parents brought her to Bujak last year because they doubted her story that she was being sexually abused.

Believing she was lying, Bujak allegedly spanked the girl, who is now 13, with a piece of wooden molding, striking her hard enough to leave bruises and welts on her legs and buttocks.

Police believe the girl’s story about sexual abuse. On Friday they charged 33-year-old Matthew Resch with five counts of predatory criminal sexual abuse.

Bujak’s church describes itself on a Web site as independent and fundamental. A Southern Baptist pastor interviewed by the Chicago Tribune said the type of physical discipline attributed to Bujak has no place in a church.

“We wouldn’t do such things,” said Jerry Gleason, pastor of Bartlett Baptist Church. “What we teach parents is there has to be some structure and discipline, but that doesn’t mean taking a board and whipping a child.”

Corporal punishment is controversial in the United States. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly opposes spanking as a form of discipline. The public approves of it by a margin of 2-1, though just one in four believes it should be permitted in school.

Spanking is against the law in some countries, such as Sweden and Germany, but in the U.S. officials do not interfere with parental rights to punish their children unless it leads to injury.

Many religious conservatives believe spanking is mandated by the Bible. Southern Baptist seminary president Albert Mohler wrote in 2004 that spanking is necessary, because–contrary to “today’s secular mindset” that views children as inherently good–people are born sinners and need discipline throughout their lives.

“Modern advocates of ‘timeouts’ and similar forms of discipline miss the essential point that God intends spanking to underline the cause-and-effect relationship of disobedience and punishment,” Mohler wrote. “Swift and firm parental punishment is the necessary means of teaching children that their disobedience will not be allowed, and that they will be brought into obedience, one way or the other.”

Three years ago Susan Lawrence, a homeschool mother from Arlington, Mass., was shocked while flipping through a magazine called Home School Digest to find an ad for “The Rod,” a flexible nylon rod billed as “the ideal tool for child training.” After a year-long campaign, she got the manufacturer to withdraw the product, although the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission denied her appeal to have it banned.

Lawrence and her husband, Steve, continue to oppose harsh treatment of children by Christians on a Web site called Parenting in Jesus’ Footsteps. A current petition protests a “chastening instrument” sold by Child Training Resources, a Web-based company in Bakersfield, Calif.

“Fulfilling the purpose and function of the Biblical rod, yet designed with today’s parents in mind, our chastening instrument is perfectly suited for the loving correction of your children,” says the product description.

Made of polyurethane, the stick measures 9 inches long, 1-1/2 inches wide and 3/16 inches thick. Flexible, unbreakable and convenient, it “fits easily into purse or travel bag.” An earlier version of the advertisement said diaper bag.

The instrument comes with instructions for use, but the company owners “highly recommend parents train themselves by reading and discussing biblically based parenting books together.”

“Child Training Resources stands firmly against any and all child abuse and is not responsible for misuse of this product,” says a disclaimer.

Lawrence, a Lutheran who considers herself a “mainstream Christian,” says she believes spanking is unchristian because it violates the Golden Rule. In 2005 she convinced a lawmaker to introduce a bill that would make corporal punishment illegal in Massachusetts.

Twenty-eight states ban corporal punishment in schools, while 22 states allow it.

The United Methodist Church adopted a resolution in 2004 encouraging members to “adopt discipline methods that do not include corporal punishment of their children.”

In his 2004 article, Mohler viewed attacks on spanking as “thinly disguised attacks on parental authority.”

“If current trends continue, Christian parents may find themselves forced to choose between obeying the law of the land or the law of God,” he wrote. “Who knew that parenting in the 21st century would require such courage?”

Bujak, the Chicago pastor charged with spanking the 13-year-old girl, was released from jail after posting $500 cash bail. He has not spoken to the media.

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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