The religious arguments

A number of religious practices condoned in religious texts are against the law  – for example, stoning adulterers to death or discriminating against women or slavery.  People have a right to freedom of religion but this right may only be exercised within the framework of human rights.  Over thirty years ago an application by some fundamentalist parents to the European Court of Human Rights against the Swedish ban on parental physical punishment was rejected at the first hurdle of admissibility and similar human rights cases against the ban on school physical punishment in this country have also failed, both in the domestic courts and in Strasbourg.[1]


Some practitioners of Christianity, Islam and Judaism believe that the physical punishment of children is required by God, basing this belief on the six “spare the rod” verses in the Bible’s Book of Proverbs[2]  and on sharia law.[3]  In the UK, these views are held only by a tiny minority of people and there are now many Christians, Jews and Muslims who maintain that hitting children is not an essential component of these faiths, backing this up with scholarly arguments.[4]  The sister organisation of CAU!, Churches Network for Non-Violence, provides resources to promote Christian arguments against corporal punishment and a forum for multi-faith activity on the issue.

[1] European Commission on Human Rights, admissibility decision, Seven Individuals v Sweden, 1982, Application No. 8811/79.  In a similar decision in September 2000 the European Court rejected unanimously and without a hearing an application objecting to the UK ban on corporal punishment in private schools, European Court of Human Rights, decision on admissibility, Philip Williamson and Others v UK, 2000, Application No. 55211/00, following losses at all levels of the British high court.

[2] Proverbs 13:24, 19:18, 22:15, 23:13,  23:14 and 29:15  

[3] Children over the age of puberty are subject to Sharia punishments, including flogging and amputations.

[4] See, for example, a long article on “Is smacking biblical?” on  and the fatwa issued by the Imams’ Network in Mauritania against physical punishment, see mauritania_49593.html 

Recent news

Report calls for prohibition in Scotland

Date: December 2015

A systematic review of research literature on physical punishment, jointly commissioned by Barnardo’s Scotland, Children 1st, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland and NSPCC Scotland was published in November

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Corporal punishment to be banned in madrassas

Date: December 2015

On November 27 the Government published plans to prohibit corporal punishment in all part-time educational settings, including madrassas (see: consultation). The proposals also aim to prevent children being “radicalised” in madrassas...

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