By now, most are aware that the State of Delaware has passed a piece of child welfare legislation that, in effect, criminalizes the act of spanking a child. The language is subtle, but is general enough to be disastrous for a parents’ right to raise and discipline their children. The key passage in question is actually a definition:
“Physical injury” to a child shall mean any impairment of physical condition or pain.
The synopsis provided by the legislature near the bottom of the bill reads:
This bill establishes the offense of Child Abuse. These new statutes combine current statutes and redefine physical injury and serious physical injury to reflect the medical realities of pain and impairment suffered by children. A new section provides special protection to infants, toddlers and children who have disabilities. The statute also expands the state of mind necessary for certain offenses against children allowing for more effective prosecution of parents who subject their children to abuse by others and fail to protect their children. The bill also re-numbers the definitional section making clear that the definitions apply to all crimes in the subchapter.
What are the implications of beating one’s children? Well, that depends on their age. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association:
Under the new law, a parent causing “physical injury” (e.g., pain) to a child under age 18 would be guilty of a class A misdemeanor and subject to one year in prison. A parent causing pain to a child who was 3 years of age or younger would be guilty of a class G felony and subject to two years in prison.
Of course many a blogger will be up in arms, and rightfully so, over the passage of this bill. I will let those who have more of a aptitude for jurisprudence to dismantle the constitutionality of the legislation. Actually, I would love for someone skilled in this area to address the possibility of “pain” eventually being interpreted in a general enough manner to include psychological pain, something we often deal with in the fight against abortion and clauses to include “the health of the mother.”
For my own part, I have only two things to offer.
First, this language is so ridiculous as to be entirely unenforcible. Any time I cause my children pain I am guilt of a class A misdemeanor? Do you have any idea how many times I violate this statue during a sixty-minute Mass? A pinch here, a squeeze there, and yes, even the occasional smack upside the head. In the course of a single Mass, under Delaware State Law, I could probably be issued somewhere between three years and three centuries of prison time depending on the weekend and sitting arrangement of my six kids. And it gets worse for my three-year-old, in which the misdemeanor is elevated to a felony. Good Lord, I wouldn’t stand a chance! The weekend when I found the little booger dropping my keys behind the radiator, squeezing an entire bottle of hand sanitizer on his sister’s school work, microwaving his plastic blocks, and standing on the sink so her could see in the mirror … let’s just say that I wouldn’t get out of prison until somewhere between hell freezing over and the day the Browns win a Super Bowl.
Second, I thought the dialog with my nine-year-old daughter was entertaining:
Daughter: What are you guys taking about?
Dad: The State of Delaware has passed a law saying that parents can’t spank their kids.
Daughter: That’s silly.
Daughter: Parents need to spank so their kids will behave.
Dad: What do you think will happen if parents can’t spank their kids?
Daughter: The kids will probably end up voting for Obama.