Chico Enterprise-Record, California February 12, 2010
DA links fundamentalist "training" to Paradise girl's death
By TERRY VAU DELL - Staff Writer
OROVILLE -- A fundamentalist religious philosophy that espouses corporal punishment to "train" children to be more obedient to their parents and God is now being investigated in connection with the death of a young Paradise girl and serious injuries to her sister.
Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey confirmed Thursday that other children in the home who have been interviewed told investigators "this philosophy was espoused by their parents."
Ramsey said he is also exploring a possible connection to a Web site that endorses "biblical discipline" using the same rubber or plastic tube alleged to have been used to whip the two young ridge girls by their adoptive parents.
In court Thursday, a judge granted a two-week postponement before the children's parents, Kevin Schatz, 46, and Elizabeth Schatz, 42, enter a plea to murder and torture charges that could carry two life terms in prison.
The delay will allow the mother to retain legal counsel as her husband did earlier.
The father's attorney, Michael Harvey, declined to comment regarding the specific allegations against the couple until he has a chance to review the evidence.
"All I can say is the family is shocked; they are grieving the loss of their daughter and (ask) that people of faith will pray for everybody involved," the defense attorney stated outside of court Thursday.
The Schatzes were arrested Saturday morning after their adopted daughter, Lydia, age 7, stopped breathing. She was subsequently pronounced dead.
Her 11-year-old sister, Zariah Schatz, remains in critical condition at a Sacramento children's hospital, though she is showing some signs of recovery. The two were adopted at the same time with an infant girl, now 3, from the same African orphanage about three years ago,
Prosecutors allege the two victims were subjected to "hours" of corporal punishment by their parents on successive days last Thursday and Friday with a quarter-inch-wide length of rubber or plastic tubing, which police reportedly recovered from the parents' bedroom.
Police allege that the younger girl was being disciplined for mis-pronouncing a word during a home-school reading lesson the day before she died.
The two young girls reportedly sustained deep bruising and multiple "whip-like" marks on their back, buttocks and legs, which authorities believe resulted in significant muscle tissue breakdown that impaired their kidneys and possibly other vital organs, said Ramsey.
He said investigators are researching a possible connection to an Internet Web site set up by "fundamentalist Christian people" that recommends use of the same whip-like implement "as an appropriate tool for biblical chastisement ... to train a child from infancy to make them a happier child and more obedient to God because they are obedient to the will of their parents," said Ramsey.
The district attorney said some of the Schatzes' six biological children, who were removed from the family home for their protection following the parents' arrest, have made statements suggesting the ridge couple shared this philosophy.
The other children in the home said the same rubber or plastic tube was used on all of them "as a standard method of discipline, but certainly not to the extent of these two girls," Ramsey added.
He said it's not clear at this point whether the Schatzes ever visited the Web site in question, which Ramsey stressed "does not endorse hurting or beating a child," nor is connected to any specific church.
From the research he has done, the district attorney pointed out that "even within the fundamentalist Christian community," parental use of corporal punishment "is subject to a great deal of debate."
The ridge couple remain held on $2 million bail pending entry of plea in two weeks to the murder and torture charges.
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No Longer Quivering - February 19, 2010
Disciplining to Death ~ No Greater Joy Ministries and Child Abuse
Friday, February 5, Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz, were charged with beating their 7 year old daughter to death for mispronouncing a word, and torturing her 11 year old sister, who was brought to Sacramento Children’s Hospital in critical condition from kidney failure and other injuries.
In addition to the two girls, who were adopted, the Schatz’s have 6 biological children and another adopted child—all of whom were rarely seen out of doors or playing with other children, report neighbors. Recently, the Butte county DA has reported that the Schatz’s followed the teachings of Michael Pearl, founder of No Greater Joy Ministries.
Pearl advocates what he refers to as “Biblical Chastisement,” that is punishing children through the use of a rod, quoting Proverbs 13: 24 as a prooftext:
“He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” (KJV)
Pearl encourages parents to “chastise” (not punish—as if there is some enormous difference!) using a “rod.” He suggests using 1/4 inch plumber’s supply line, to administer the chastisement—which, Pearl maintains, is not a beating. This is exactly what the Schatz’s are being accused of using in beating and torturing their children.
Mark Ramsey, the DA is quoted as saying, “Even the Tennessee pastor that espouses hitting children right from infancy says that you must watch that you don’t cross the line. Clearly this is a situation where the line was crossed from discipline… to beating… to murder.” The problem with advocating Biblical chastisement, though, is that it blurs the lines between discipline and beating. Pearl suggests using the plumber’s supply line 10 times, per chastisement, increasing that amount if the child resists the discipline. How many times must a child be hit with a rod for it to be a beating? Where is the line?
Tellingly, CBS reports that the Schatz’s children—all homeschooled —considered the beatings normal and do not understand why their parents have been arrested. Further, the LA atheism examiner notes that “more than two dozen supporters of the parents showed up at their arraignment on Feb. 9. They were back in court on Feb. 11 for appearance of counsel and possible entry of a plea to the murder and torture charges.”
As a daughter of fundamentalist parents, and as someone who grew up with this sort of discipline, this story deeply saddens me—but, it is not shocking or surprising. I remember a time when I would have been one of the children who did not understand, who thought her parents were just disciplining because they loved her. While I was never beaten so seriously—this story leaves me wondering “what if…” What something pushed my parents just a bit further?
This tragic story needs to be discussed and brought to light. It is not simply a story of parents who “went too far.” It’s a story about how warped teachings about parent-child relationships, discipline, and authority hurt children and destroy their lives. These teachings must be examined and exposed for what they are: normalized child abuse. I escaped—but will others be so lucky?
“Wanderingone” is a college student, finally breaking free of her homeschooled fundamentalist upbringing, by wearing pants and other things indicative of demon possession.
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