Methodists distressed by "Christian" action

 The Methodist Church has criticised a court action by independent schools claiming that they have a right to reintroduce corporal punishment in their schools as a matter of doctrine. A church spokesperson today said she found any claims that such punishment be applied under any circumstances offensive and reminded congregations that the petitioners in this case represented an extreme minority position. Education Officer Kathleen Wood was commenting on an ongoing case before the Appeal Court in which 40 independent schools are appealing a High Court decision taken last year to reject their argument for a change in the law which currently bans slapping in schools. In their appeal, the schools have claimed their right to reintroduce corporal punishment as religious and doctrinal in origin and therefore protected by the European Convention on Human Rights. "The view expressed by a very small minority of those calling themselves Christian, that the Bible gives credence to their claim for the right to inflict such punishment on children, is, to us, offensive. We cannot subscribe to any interpretation of Scripture that makes such a claim. Ms Wood said she found it particularly distressing that the current court action should be described as 'Christian' and linked to the ongoing debate about Faith Schools. "In recent months the Methodist Church has allocated considerable time and energy to correcting the misconceptions and allaying the fears of those calling for the banning of such schools. Considerable progress has been made in encouraging those outside the churches and other faith communities to see Faith Schools as a valued and valuable alternative choice for parents seeking a broad education for their child, and as making a positive and significant contribution to the promotion of racial and religious harmony." Earlier this week as reported in, Christian think-tank Ekklesia challenged the schools' contention that corporal punishment with parental consent formed part of a religious doctrine. In a statement, biblical scholar Dr Lloyd Pietersen said he could not think of a single New Testament passage to support the idea of smacking in schools, but that he could think of a number of passages that challenged it. The appeal continues.

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