Prosecutors say 30-year-old Kin Park Thaing, a Burmese immigrant, admitted to beating her son with a coat hanger because she believed he was about to harm his younger sister.
The boy’s teacher noticed 36 large welts and bruising on his head, back, arm, and leg. She notified police, and Thaing was arrested, charged with battery and neglect of a dependent.
Now her attorney has filed a motion to dismiss the charges based on Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which passed last year.
The attorney claims the woman’s religious beliefs exempt her from punishment, pointing to this Biblical passage: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol,” Proverbs 23:13, 14.
The judge, however, denied to dismiss the charges.
Marion County prosecutor Terry Curry calls the mother’s actions “clear criminal conduct.”
“You’re entitled to spank your child, however there is a line at which that becomes unreasonable,” Curry said. “We believe that this particular defendant went way over that line.”
Legal experts say Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act is not meant to protect parents who are child abusers.
Thaing will go to trial in October.
WTHR News reports that since Indiana lawmakers passed RFRA in 2015, the First Church of Cannabis in Indianapolis has used the new law to make a case for smoking pot while in church, while another man argued that his religious beliefs freed him from prosecution in a criminal tax case.