“Child Training Murder” – Spanked to Death in the Name of Jesus

Shatz MugshotApril 11, 2011 - “spank him until it’s obvious he’s totally broken.” Chilling words from page fifty-nine of Michael Pearl’s controversial parenting guide, ‘To Train Up A Child’.  The book was discovered at the home of Kevin and Elizabeth Shatz, along with the battered body of their adopted daughter, Lydia, who died as result of months of abuse.  An older daughter required hospitalization for abuse related injuries, but survived.

According to testimony, the Shatz’s were following the written instructions of Tennessee pastor Michael Pearl, when they beat their daughters with a fifteen-inch length of plumbing supply line. Lydia died from a severe beating instigated by her failure to properly pronounce a word. The case marked the second time that Pearl’s book had been linked to a child abuse death in a matter of a few years. A third child was ‘trained’ to death by followers of Michael Pearl a few years later. An online petition to remove the book from Amazon.com currently has tens of thousands of signatures.

Both parents were sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to a litany of child abuse charges.

Explore Full Coverage of the Shatz case at Homeschooling’s Invisible Children

Deacon Had Sexual Motive for Spanking Students

Reverend Alan Morris

Jailed: Pedophile spanking fetishist Alan Morris was the chief disciplinarian at an all-boys school for nearly two decades.

Deacon Had Sexual Motive for Spanking Students

Reverend Alan Morris, 64, kept a disturbing ‘bag of implements’ – including a leather strap, a cane and a wooden spoon – in his chemistry lab at an all-boys grammar school.

[This article originally appeared in The Freethinker.]

August 29, 2014 – By M Dolon Hickmon -The Manchester Evening News has reported that school teacher and church deacon Alan Morris has been jailed for nine years for  abusing ten boys over a 17 year period while working as a chemistry teacher at St Ambrose RC College in Altrincham. The court heard that the children were taken to a small room inside of Morris’s chemistry lab, where they were stripped, beaten and indecently assaulted. In some cases, students were also made to beat each other.

One of Morris’s victims was Scott Morgan, son of Manchester United football star Willie Morgan. Scott Morgan, now aged 43, waived his right to anonymity in order to share the full story of his abuse with the public. He said: “I was really quiet at school. That’s why he picked on me. He had his favorites, those he liked to punish. You just knew when it was your turn. It was horrible. You just knew it was coming. You just shut your eyes and waited for it.”

While victims bent over a stool awaiting their punishment, Morris would line up his implements of torture: canes, shoes, and a leather strap, as well as a homemade pink rubber paddle that Morris referred to as the Paddywhacker.

Scott Morgan was subject to repeated abuse over several years, beginning at the age of eleven. “You would go into his little room and sometimes it would be five minutes before he hit you. You could hear him going ‘hmmmmm’ as he chose the implement.”

Morgan also recalled instances of group beatings, in which Morris whipped as many as “nine or ten” naked children at the same time. Morgan said: “He would go around hitting everybody in turn. He made us all pull our pants down. He was getting a kick out of it. The longer he could drag it out the better. That’s how he spent his lunch-times and always in his little room.”

Other reports indicate that Alan Morris was permitted to function as the “chief policeman” of the school, with fellow teachers providing him a steady stream of victims to “punish”.

Morgan added: “All the teachers knew what Morris was like. They knew what was going on but would not go up against him because he was the deputy headmaster. We were all ruled by fear.”

(more…)

“unsettling entertainment that offers catharsis”

Publishers WeeklyPublishers Weekly

star3Hickmon unleashes a shocking blitzkrieg of murder, conspiracy, and child abuse in this disturbing, breathlessly plotted murder mystery… Merging biblical tales, psychology, and social criticism, Hickmon stares into the distressing abyss of child exploitation with daring honesty…Eschewing easy answers for moral complexity, this thriller is unsettling entertainment that offers catharsis.

- Read the entire review of 13:24 – A Story of Faith and Obsession by M. Dolon Hickmon

This Present Darkness: Homeschoolers Anonymous Review of 13:24

This Present Darkness: A Review of M Dolon Hickmon’s “13:24″

“I could not console myself by saying, ‘This is fiction.’ It isn’t, as anyone who has experienced child abuse will recognize.”

“The highest praise I can give M Dolon Hickmon’s debut novel is a trigger warning: While I believe that everyone everywhere needs to read this book, I must urge those with a history of physical or sexual abuse to approach this title with care. I personally had a nervous breakdown after I finished it; I couldn’t breathe because it felt like someone had punched me in the gut. And I could not console myself by saying, “This is fiction.” It isn’t, as anyone who has experienced child abuse will recognize.

Hickmon gives readers an uncommon gift: a brief look behind the curtain of tragedy, a fleeting chance to understand a little more than we did.

In his prologue, the author explains his intentional use of real-life parallels, based on his childhood experiences and research into religiously-motivated child abuse. Also examined are the intersections between child trafficking rings, physical and sexual abuse, and fundamentalist cults. Woven with fictional elements, these create the book’s complex, dark, and brutal narrative.

13:24 is the story of two young men: Josh, a rising rock star, and Chris, the neglected teenaged son of a drug addict. Their stories begin distinct and distant, but as the novel develops, their pasts—and futures—are revealed to be connected in ways that both shock and disturb.

The story opens on a gruesome murder. While the body count rises, questions multiply as a small-town detective chases Chris as a murder suspect. Along the way, readers encounter events and characters with uncanny real-life parallels: Josh has flashbacks of being abused by his minister father, who resembles Michael Pearl and advocates harsh physical punishment; in another thread, a controversial parenting manual is linked to a spate of discipline-related deaths, bringing to mind real-life cases, like those of Hana Williams and Lydia Schatz. Elsewhere, an imprisoned child abuser is freed through the efforts of a “homeschool legal defense fund”, reminiscent of the Home School Legal Defense Association. At the same time, an oily “Christian psychologist” heads a James Dobson-esque media empire, with tendrils in state and national politics.

13:24 may be fiction, but it describes the lives of any number of people I have known. In its imagery, I recognize moments that friends and colleagues have breathed and suffered through. That is what made this novel so hard for me to read.

The book exposes what many religious and homeschooled children experience every day. Readers witness their pain and hear their cries. We see their misery multiplied when it is justified in the name of God; we see their tragedies covered up to save face and preserve religious “freedom”. And unlike a Frank Peretti novel, there are no angels rushing in to the save the day. We must pick up the pieces and fight this present darkness.

Despite the darkness, 13:24 has a poetic beauty. That beauty is in the narrative symmetry: a murder begins it and a murder concludes it. While death marks where the story begins and ends, there is a profound shift in what those deaths mean. This is the power of Hickmon’s prose: he delves deep into pain, into what he has described in his subtitle as “faith and obsession,” and shows us the human faces behind news headlines’ “monsters.”

13:24 is not easy reading. It is neither uplifting nor redemptive. It will crack your heart open, set your blood on fire, and turn your screams into music. Most significantly, the characters’ actions are neither justified nor condemned by the author. He simply allows them to exist. In doing so, Hickmon gives readers an uncommon gift: a brief look behind the curtain of tragedy, a fleeting chance to understand a little more than we did.

- Read the entire review of 13:24 – A Story of Faith and Obsession by M. Dolon Hickmon

‘A Survivor’s Conversation with Christianity’

BIRTHDAYA SURVIVOR’S CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTIANITY
By M. Dolon Hickmon

Six years ago I sent a letter to the husband-and-wife authors of a well-known Christian parenting guide. Criticized for its emphasis on corporal punishment and for being circumstantially linked to at least two child-abuse deaths, their book has nevertheless attracted a faithful following. As a result of their book’s polarizing effect, the guide’s authors have for many years featured in public spanking debates.

When I wrote to these authors, I was newly reconverted to the faith of my childhood. It was to be my second go-around with Christianity. The first ended at the age of seven, when I realized that my prayers were doing nothing to keep my abuser from terrorizing my brother and me with the belt. As a second-grader, I struggled to understand how a living God could be so utterly disinterested. I resolved the dilemma by blaming myself. By puberty, I was privately thinking of myself as an atheist.

Still, when I contacted the married authors through a form on their ministry’s website, I was Christian. How that came to be was complicated. Fittingly enough, the story began with an act of God.

Hurricane Charley was supposed to dump lots of rain, but miss my part of Florida by hundreds of miles. Instead, the eye passed directly overhead. Due to the inaccurate forecasting, malls and schools were closed, while shelters never opened. My refuge was the thirty-year-old mobile home that I shared with two other guys. We joined our neighbors in covering windows. By afternoon, the TV was showing intense destruction farther south.

The eye was twelve miles away when our power failed. We waited in stifling heat and darkness. The wind rose to a roar. We heard sounds of flying branches and peeling siding. Our carport blew away, and debris punctured the outside walls. Finally, a gust of wind picked up the entire trailer. I felt a floating sensation as we were lifted into the air. Then pop, pop, pop, as the wind tugged against metal tie-down straps. The house settled and was snatched up again and again. A corner of our roof flapped, then opened like a sardine can. Objects the size of tractor trailers could be heard blowing down the street.

We’re going to die.

I tried reasoning with myself, but my self insisted.

Storms kill people in trailers all the time.

Panic made me want to do something stupid, like run outside. At nearly the same instant, my friends, who had been barely speaking for the last week, faced each other and apologized.

After that, nobody talked.

I faced mortality from what I believed to be one minute away. With my toes dangling over eternity, I never prayed. Rather, the experience reminded me of a particularly fearsome whipping, back when I was no older than seven.

Afterward, I couldn’t shake the memories that the ordeal had triggered: the belt; tears on carpet; my voice begging. Over weeks, more recollections emerged: my older brother wetting the bed; the belt; humiliation; him pleading.

I called my brother on the telephone. “Could these things have happened?”

He laughed. “That’s the least of it.”

Memories haunted me, and at the center, there was our old church and my abuser’s worn-out Bible. I lost my job, all my friends, then my mind. Therapy didn’t work. Medication didn’t work. Nothing worked.

I tried suicide.

An uncle fetched me from the hospital. I hadn’t seen him in twenty years. He’d become a jail chaplain, the kind who wore a braided beard and motorcycle club patches on a black leather vest. His advice: Forget everything you know about Christianity—start again.

I was exhausted. I wanted someone to take care of me. I turned to Jesus.

I joined a church, played guitar at the prison, and taught Bible studies to inmates. Before long I was leading a men’s fellowship. There were benefits to keeping busy, but the nightmares and flashbacks never stopped.

My re-deconversion began at a Wednesday evening church service. Children were told to remain with their parents, rather than leaving for Sunday school. An associate pastor then used his Father’s Day speaking slot to explain the process of cutting and sanding your own wooden paddles. Parents didn’t have to worry, he explained, because the handles would break off if you hit your children too hard. Paddling could leave marks, but if you hugged your kid afterward, that was fine.

I sat in the pew, heart racing. It was the lesson that my childhood pastor had given, thirty years ago. It was why I’d thought being beaten into submission was normal. It was the reason I’d never complained to anyone.

My uncle had convinced me that our old church was strange. He’d insisted that in all his years, he’d never heard anything like it. But here were the same lessons, preached to a six-thousand-member congregation.

I was angry, then confused.

I knew this pastor! He seemed decent. He knew how to juggle.

I approached him after service, and he agreed to a meeting in his office. I relayed a few details of the maltreatment I’d suffered and told him how the evening’s sermon had affected me. He attended, seeming as if he might cry. But when I asked him if he could see how his advice promoted physical abuse, he didn’t get it.

“I said discipline in love and never in anger! I said that you must make clear what was done wrong and hug the child afterward. In this way, the child’s dignity is increased.” The pastor smiled beatifically, as if that settled that.

I answered, “My abuser loved me, and I always knew what I’d done wrong. His attitude was not anger but grim determination. He was taught that beatings would work–and that if they didn’t, his only choice was to beat harder or longer. He hugged me when I was done crying. That made me feel worse, not better.”

The pastor showed me verses from the book of Proverbs; told me those verses were promises—and God couldn’t be a liar. I was willing to believe, but things had happened to me that his verses could not explain.

The pastor’s voice took on the tones of debate; but for me, there was nothing to argue. He’d chosen not to believe my explanation of events—but I couldn’t choose to have had a different childhood.

He suggested that we agree to disagree. From that, it was clear that he hadn’t grasped the stakes: on the question of whether or not to spank, and if so, when and how, it is possible to share a faith and yet differ. But his sermon had reopened the fundamental religious dilemma of my childhood. My faith was critically wounded, though it would take years for me to be able to explain why.

After that meeting, I pored over a century of Christian parenting counsel, including tomes by James Dobson, Richard Fugate, Larry Tomczak, Roy Lessin, and Michael and Debi Pearl. They presented similar views, with nearly identical scriptural underpinnings. Yet when I compared my memories of abuse to the authors’ instructions, there was nothing added or left out.

This matters, because abused children rifle through our books; they hear our sermons and eavesdrop on adult conversations. I know because that is what I did. From these and other inadvertent sources, I tried to discern whether my brother and I were in need of protection.

Here are the messages I gleaned from the church of my childhood: that beating children is acceptable—good for them, in fact; that bruises and welts are of little consequence; that fear is desirable, as is pained screaming and broken sobbing. I’d heard that kids were to be whipped for the least act of disobedience, with belts and sticks and plastic racecar tracks; on bare skin, and as often as an adult thought was necessary.

A child abuser, on the other hand, is someone who doesn’t love you. A parent who never gives hugs because he is angry all the time. A child abuser is a drinker, a druggie, or at best some kind of wild animal. An abuser has no reasons or explanations. He just burns kids with cigarettes and gives them broken arms.

My abuser loved me and hugged me, and he overflowed with explanations. I once got an hour-long lesson on disobedience for leaving a crayon on the floor. While the belt clapped with the measured rhythms of chopping firewood, I struggled to commit verses to memory and to answer quizzes on the metaphysical meanings of the word honor in scripture. Afterward, I was too sore to sit or lie down.

The Bible says, “Don’t exasperate your children by how you treat them.” But I’d been told that it was an adult’s job to make me regret the bad things I did. So instead of feeling exasperated, I pitied my abuser. After all, I was forcing him to do something that he assured me he did not enjoy.

I tolerated being degraded, because that was what I thought a Christian child was supposed to do. I believed that in time I would come to appreciate my abuser’s good intentions. Instead, what dawned during my twenties and early thirties was that I was emotionally ill from being traumatized.

Adults can debate whether my abuser was angry, in some calm, deliberate way; we can say that inflicting emotional injury is the opposite of administering loving discipline; we can draw fine lines between childishness and disobedience. However, such subtle thoughts are lost on a five- or nine-year-old.

The cautions that bracket pastors’ paddling advice are inadequate—not because a few wackos might take the wrong portions literally (though many have), but because abused children certainly will. The evangelical boilerplate protects churches from lawsuits, but it doesn’t tell the youngest Christians that they must protect their bodies and sanity by making an outcry when they are maltreated.

If God inspired my pastor’s sermons on child-whipping, why hadn’t he spared a word for that stoic kindergartner, shifting uncomfortably on his insulted bottom? Did God not realize that I’d been grasping at every mention of the subject of spanking, because the dread of being whipped was a physical illness that followed me night and day?

God’s omission is something that I still have trouble reconciling.

But I hadn’t formed such a thought when I wrote to the authors of that controversial parenting book. At that time, I was still Christian. But I couldn’t ignore the feeling of outraged disgust that grew with each word of that parenting book that I read.

My soul said: This is wrong.

It said: With backward glances and furtive fingers, abused children will read this. They will hear these ideas bellowed from pulpits, now and for the rest of their lives. As children, they will blame themselves for being beaten, and as adults they will wonder how a decent God could let a defective and incomplete message to continue going out in His name.

It took years to distill that gut feeling into the words you have just read. The process involved spending hours per day studying and writing about every facet of spiritual and physical child abuse, PTSD, and corporal punishment. Halfway through, I realized that posing the right question would require an accurate depiction of abuse and survival.

The essay I’d been planning turned into a novel.

The result is a psychological thriller, called 13:24. It follows the son of an evangelical parenting expert as he progresses from a childhood in the church to a career as the singer of a Gothic heavy metal band. A murder investigation involving a fourteen-year-old fan leads to a long-delayed confrontation between the rock singer and his minister dad.

Though it reads like pop fiction, the book delves deeply into the political, cultural and scriptural underpinnings of religion-related child abuse, offering fresh insights, which are intended to add light, rather than heat, to public discussions of the role of the church in preventing child abuse.

Below is the note I sent to the married Christian authors, formatted as a request for advice. The circumstances I described are representative, except that I am not the father in the story.

I am the little boy who could not stop screaming.

My son is six years old, and he cries excessively when I correct him with the Rod. I know the crying is unnecessary because he begins before I’ve even hit him. He falls on the floor and screams murder if I even look like I might be ready to spank him.

I’ve shown my wife how he freaks out when I have not even touched him, but she insists on interrupting every time I spank. She’s taught him that he can get out of being disciplined by making a lot of noise. I spank at least twice a week, more often if needed. I use my belt, which is how my dad disciplined me. As I’ve said, my son is very theatrical. I have told him that he can either stand up or lay on the bed for his spanking. He chooses to stand, then hops around as if I am killing him. I aim for his butt, but with him moving I am getting his back half the time. He also likes to fall down and cover his butt by kneeling or squatting. If he won’t get up, I give him a few strokes on the back to encourage him. Sometimes even this doesn’t work and I wind up chasing him around the bed.

My wife insists that I am spanking too often and too harshly. She gets upset if she sees a welt or a small bruise, especially above the waist. My son is quite the little actor. I’m glad we don’t have any neighbors nearby because by the sound of his screaming you would think a murder was going on! Aside from being plain annoying, his behavior is creating problems for me and my wife. She is so overprotective that my authority is undermined. The kids (I have an older son also) are carrying on like monkeys and she will not let me spank, or when I do, she will not let me do more than a couple of “love taps.”

I tried spanking them when she was out of the house, but of course my younger son reported me to his mother and we had a fight. That one ended with her packing her suitcase and going to her sister’s house.

I am at my wit’s end trying to figure out what to do about my wife’s meddling and my son’s screaming! Please help!!

The response, from the female half of the writing duo, was brief:

Your wife is at fault in coming to your son’s defense. Your son uses her. Either she stays out of the way, or you will have to stop being a real Dad.

Exactly what our pastor told my mother thirty years ago.

This article originally appeared on the website of No Longer Quivering

[—M. Dolon Hickmon is the author of 13:24 – A Story of Faith and Obsession. Set against a backdrop of murder and heavy-metal music, 13:24 examines lives touched by spiritual child abuse and malicious physical punishment. Written with input from experts in relevant fields, it is a fast-paced crime thriller that entertains as it informs. Learn more at the book’s website, http://1324book.com.]

“Disciplined” to Death – Did Pastor’s Advice Influence Child Murderer?

Michael Pearl TTUACSmithfield, NC - In 2008, adoptive mother Lynn Paddock was convicted of torture and murder, in death of her four-year-old son adopted son Sean.  Six surviving children testified at trial that they had been beaten  almost daily with flexible plastic rods, wooden spoons and other devices. A forensic pediatrician described the abuse as “ritualistic torture”, while Assistant Johnston County District Attorney Paul Jackson showed jurors the “whipping stick” Paddock used on the children, as well as photos of bruises on their bodies.

“This was soul murder,” Jackson said.

Testifying at trial, Lynn Paddock  said she and her husband decided to use discipline techniques they learned from the evangelical Rev. Michael Pearl,  who publishes books and articles on how to raise obedient  children.

“We liked Michael Pearl’s (system) because it was quick (and) it didn’t demean the child and bring their self-esteem down,” she said. As of 2014, the death of Sean Paddock is one of three confirmed deaths circumstantially linked to Pearl’s parenting guide, To Train Up A Child. An online petition to remove the book from Amazon.com now has tens of thousands of signatures.

Read Lynn Paddock’s Statement to Investigators (Courtesy of WRAL)