- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 16, 2000

This Christmas season, take a moment to say a prayer for the many innocent people sent to prison by injustice. You can safely say, "There, but for the grace of God, go I," because the myriad causes of well-intentioned people have made it possible for anyone, no matter how innocent, to be imprisoned.

On G. Gordon Liddy's radio show recently, a father, who will doubtless soon be added to the number of incarcerated innocents, called in and told his woeful tale. A poor man making $14,000 a year, the father is a candidate for prison, because he punished his 6-year-old daughter for telling a lie by putting hot pepper on her tongue.

Spankings, mouths washed out with soap and similar punishments helped inculcate a respect for veracity in tens of millions of perfectly normal Americans alive today. But for "child advocates," all corporeal punishments are ipso facto evidence of child abuse.

Parents are slowly learning the hard way that raising a child the way they were raised can be a crime. If you want to avoid ruin, understand that "child advocates" have succeeded in convincing schoolteachers, doctors, your neighbors just about anyone who sees your child that 3 out of 4 parents are child abusers.

The evidence can be anything a bruise from a soccer game, speaking in a voice that has been raised to the level of your blood pressure by the child that is the recipient of your shouting or hot pepper on the tongue.

In many schools, teachers ask young children if parents touch their private parts, spank them, or scream at them (psychological abuse). Children are asked, "When you misbehave, how are you punished?" In some Pennsylvania schools, zealots searching for sexual abuse forced sixth-grade girls to undergo genital exams.

When the 6-year-old in this story answered that she was punished with hot pepper on her tongue, the teacher acted out the part with her to establish agreement, and then called in the Child and Family Services Gestapo.

The child was sent to a doctor, who works for "the Services," and knows what he is expected to write. A statement was coerced out of the frightened and learning-disabled mother that the hot pepper punishment had been used before. The report went to the police, who regard it as evidence of "a pattern of child abuse by burns."

No one, not the state-certified public school teacher, not the doctor, not the denizens of Child and Family Services, not the police, and certainly not the "child advocates," saw the situation for what it was: an economically and learning challenged family trying to raise a daughter not to be a liar.

All the professionally trained, certified and taxpayer-supported services could discern was a pattern of child abuse. The father wouldn't be in trouble if he were content for his daughter to grow up a liar.

This is what life in the United States has become. Parents cannot count on help from the president and vice president of the United States setting a good example. They cannot rely on recognition from schoolteachers and state bureaucrats that teaching a child not to lie is far more important than hot pepper on the tongue. They cannot rely on police saying, "Hey, this is a matter of parental discretion, not a police matter."

"Child advocates" have put in place a system of reporting on parents that is more intrusive than the systems used by communists and National Socialists. In the United States, all you need to do is punish a child for telling a lie, and it's off to prison with you.

The public is constantly bombarded with print and radio informational ads that identify signs of child abuse and supply 800 telephone numbers for reporting the culprits. According to the propaganda, one "clear sign" is animal abuse. A child who abuses an animal, the ad proclaims, is a child who is abused by parents. By this reckoning, hunters and employees of slaughterhouses and pest control companies are child abuse victims.

In the United States today, punishing a child the way you were punished can bring more certain and severe retribution than robbing a bank. This is why parents have lost control over their children. Unless you are a parent blessed with a non-willful child who is quick to accept responsibility and ask for forgiveness, you are fodder for crusading "child advocates" who seem determined to fill the nation's prisons with parents.

Paul Craig Roberts is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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