Ramsey examines ministry connected to girl's death

Date: 2010-02-18

By Elizabeth De Alwis

No Greater Joy Ministries is being examined by the Butte County District Attorney's Office in relation to the death of a 7-year-old Paradise girl and extensive injuries to her sister.

Ridge parents Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz are charged with murder and torture following the death of 7-year-old Lydia Schatz and the hospitalization of 11-year-old Zariah Schatz.

Both girls were allegedly whipped by the their adoptive parents with a quarter-inch plumbing supply line - the instrument suggested by Michael and Debi Pearl, founders of No Greater Joy Ministries and authors of the controversial religious parenting book "How to Train Up a Child."

"We do not teach 'corporal punishment' nor 'hitting' children," Michael Pearl, CEO of No Greater Joy Minstries, wrote in an emailed statement to The Post. "We teach parents how to train their children, which sometimes requires the limited and controlled application of a spanking instrument to hold the child's attention on admonition."

(See Michael Pearl's emailed statement on page A-4.)

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey confirmed to The Post earlier this week that the Internet Web site, www.nogreaterjoy.org is the site in question, though investigators are not yet saying this is the source the Schatz couple followed.

He also stressed that this Web site does not endorse beating children, and it is not connected to a specific church. However, Ramsey said this is the only source they have found that recommends using
this particular plumbing supply line and suggests these instruments are "cheaper by the dozen at Home Depot."

Prosecutors say the parents subjected the two girls to hours of corporal punishment with a plumbing supply line on Thursday and Friday leading up to Lydia's death and the Schatzes' arrest last Saturday. The plumbing supply line was recovered in the parents' bedroom.

Pearl says No Greater Joy does not advocate spanking to the point of serious injury.

"If indeed these parents were abusive, and that has not yet been proven by the courts, it is regretful that our teachings were not able to turn them from their predisposition to abusive habits," he stated.

Beyond his emailed statement, Pearl had no further comment for The Post at this time. Both girls had deep bruising and several whip-like marks on the back, buttocks, and legs. Ramsey said authorities believe this led to a break down of tissue, endangering vital organs.

The other Schatz children interviewed and have reportedly made statements to investigators about the disciplinary philosophy to which their parents adhered.

The other children told investigators the same instrument was used on all of them, but Ramsey said it was not to the extent of the two girls and except for the Schatz' brusied 10-year-old son, none of the other children showed signs of abuse. It was a lengthy article in Salon Magazine that led investigators to No Greater Joy Ministries, Ramsey said. The title of the article is 'Spare the quarter-inch plumbing supply line, spoil the child."

The article, written in 2006 by Lynn Harris, explores the Pearls' methods. Though the Pearls were well-known in fundamentalist religious circles, they became more widely known when their methods were implicated in the death of a 4-year-old boy in North Carolina, as well as the alleged abuse of his two siblings. The mother, Lynn Paddock, reportedly followed the Pearls' disciplinary methods. Her son's death was caused by suffocation when she wrapped him tightly in blankets. The Pearls do not advocate restraining with blankets anywhere in their teachings, however, the boy and two of his five siblings had welts caused by a "rod" recommended by the Pearls - a quarter-inch plumbing supply line.

The Pearls describe the training and "biblical chastisement" on the Web site as a means of loving their children and teaching them to obey their parents and God unconditionally. Much of their teaching is about raising cheerful and creative children, and articles by their adult children appear on the site. Though their methods demonstrate asserting authority, the Pearls also caution that spanking should never be done in anger. Parents should be calm and consistent, they say.

"Switching" or giving "licks" with a plumbing supply line is a "real attention getter" they write on the Web site. The Pearls also suggest using alternative instruments, such as a 12-inch willowy branch for children under one year old, a one-foot ruler, a paddle, or a belt or larger tree branch for a larger child. By using "the rod," Pearl writes in his teachings "the parent holds in his hand the power to absolve guilt, cleanse his soul, instruct his spirit, strengthen his resolve, and give him a fresh start through confidence that all indebtedness is paid."

He references Proverbs 13:24 in his article "In Defense of Biblical Chastisement," Part 1: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes."

He says this verse instructs parents to chasten their children with a rod, and that it is the parents' responsibility to bring their children to repentance and righteousness. He says God commands that parents use the rod to train their children. He claims "the rod" drives out a child's foolishness and lust, purges the soul of guilt, mirrors judgment to come, communicates the principals of divine government, teaches the concept of law in general, and assures a child of his parents' love.

Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz were granted a two-week postpoment until their next hearing. Both are being held on bail of $2 million, and both face two life terms upon conviction. Neither has entered a plea. Their next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 25.


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