In Cobb County, Georgia, the same mecca of rationality that declared all biology books must be labeled to protect the dear, innocent children from the dangerous message of evolutionary theory, a couple faces a murder charge stemming from the deadly discipline used on their son, inspired by the teachings of their unique Christian church.
Sonya and Joseph Smith, of the Remnant Fellowship Church (also of the "Weigh Down Workshop" weight-loss plan), followed along with the church's policy of physically disciplining children with strikes from foot-long glue sticks. According to this article:
On Oct. 8, 2003, emergency crews were called to the Smiths' home in Georgia after the couple reported Josef was having trouble breathing. He died the next day at an Atlanta hospital.
Sonya Smith told police that on the day he died the couple had disciplined Josef with a series of glue-stick whippings, delivered in increments of 10. She said the boy was locked in a closet and made to pray to a picture of Jesus affixed to the ceiling. He was monitored in the kitchen via a camera in the closet.
Laura Boone, a 17-year old who used to babysit for Remnant families, testified about what she saw when hired to work at a Remnant church function:
The church seems to be an odd weight-loss group/fundamentalist Christian cult of some sort:
"There were more than 20 kids total there," she said. "All the adults were getting ready to go into the worship room, and Josef Jr. was crying really hard in the corner. I asked his dad what he wanted me to do, and he looked right at me, and he hit his fist into his hand really hard."
Boone said Smith Sr. told her to hit his son, "Hit him hard," she recalled Smith telling her.
"I just told him I didn't feel comfortable hitting his son," she said. "So, he took Josef in the little room next door, and we could hear Josef crying really hard and his dad hitting him."
Boone said Josef returned to the nursery area still crying but with no visible marks on his body.
That was the last time Boone or her friends accepted a baby-sitting job at Remnant or for a Remnant family, she said.
But according to Remnant's leader, Gwen Shamblin:
Like other members, Steve Miozzi and his wife joined Remnant after taking a Weigh Down class at their church in east Cleveland, Ohio. He said he and his wife were initially enthralled.
"You walked into the church, and you thought this is what heaven must look like," said Betsy Miozzi.
Everyone was thin, their teeth white, the children well behaved, and many appeared to be financially successful, she said. And everyone was "lovebombing" the couple, she said, using the church's terminology for friendly embracing of new visitors.
But when Steve Miozzi sought help on how to deal with an 11-year-old boy misbehaving during worship services, he said he was told by church leader Ted Anger to beat the back of the boy's thighs with a glue stick. If the boy didn't behave he was to keep repeating the procedure, and if the boy continued to misbehave he was to put him in a room with nothing but a Bible, Miozzi said.
Miozzi says that when he visited the Brentwood church for worship services, there were "glue sticks sticking out of diaper bags" in the aisles.
Anger dismissed Miozzi's account last week, saying he never prescribed a specific way to spank a child.
"I didn't sit there and give people manual instructions about discipline," Anger said. "It's always been about teaching principles. It's about putting the parents back in control with love and boundaries."
Child discipline is not what Miozzi says prompted him and his wife to leave the church.
They left after three years because of a church philosophy that he said did not allow any questioning of church leaders. The strict obedience to their authority "destroyed my personal relationship with Jesus Christ," he said.
Also, he said, he was taken to task for not losing enough weight.
Call it what you want; I think it's clear that if you cause a child's death, you've done something immoral.
Spanking a child is very different from hitting a child. Hitting is not spanking. Hitting is inflicting pain in anger. Spanking is a reluctant feeling that is necessary, and it does hurt the parent more than the child.
Spanking is a time-tested, ancient teaching from the Bible… Every child is different, and some parents in the Remnant, all they have to do is give the child a disapproving look, and some children are strong-willed. Teaching and constant direction in the form of both positive and, very occasionally negative, reinforcement is the most loving way to raise a child.