Mother uses Indiana's Religious Freedom Law as an excuse in abuse case

Posted at 2:03 PM, Sep 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-01 14:15:36-04

Warning: This video includes an image some viewers may find disturbing.

An Indiana mother was arrested after hitting her son numerous times with a plastic coat hanger, leaving his back covered in red marks. In court, she offered a unique reason for her actions.

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Kin Park Thaing said the Religious Freedom Restoration Act Indiana passed in 2015 gives her the right to hit her child as a form of punishment. 

In court documents, Thaing cited Proverbs 13:24, which says: "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."

When it passed, critics of the religious freedom law warned about cases like this where people could use religion as an excuse to break the law.

She also blamed the incident on cultural differences. Thaing is a Burmese refugee, and she says that child welfare laws are much different where she comes from. In Burma (now Myanmar), the government can only involve itself in situations where a child's life could be in danger.

"We've been frustrated with the RFRA law since the point that it was enacted because as we advised at the time and told legislators if it didn't exempt criminal code, people were going to assert this as a defense to what otherwise is criminal conduct," prosecutor Terry Curry told WRTV.

Thaing was charged with battery against a person less than 14 years old and neglect of a dependent. The Department of Child Services required her to take parenting classes to learn alternative methods of discipline. Her case will go to trial in October.

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