Questions about ministry grow

Date: 2010-02-26

By Elizabeth de Alwis

Controversy and media attention is mounting surrounding a Paradise couple accused of murdering their 7-year old adopted daughter, Lydia Schatz, earlier this month.

Much of the attention centers on a link between the girl's death and the child training, discipline and "chastisement" methods taught by a fundamentalist religious ministry based in Tennessee, called No Greater Joy. Michael and Debi Pearl, founders of No Greater Joy Ministry and co-authors of a controversial religious parenting book, "To Train Up a Child," recommend that parents spank their children with a quarter-inch plumbing supply line - the same instrument used on Lydia Schatz and her 11-year-old sister, Zariah Schatz - reportedly for hours prior to Lydia's death and the arrest of their adoptive parents, Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz on Feb. 6.

Lydia reportedly died of organ failure before she reached the hospital and Zariah had been beaten so badly her kidneys were failing. She was hospitalized and was listed in critical condition.

According to Paradise Police Lt. Al Billington, Zariah was released from Sutter Memorial Hospital last week into local foster care and she is expected to make a full recovery.

"She has some follow-up check-ups, but otherwise she is fully recovered- well, physically," Billington said.

But the 7-year old girl is dead and her parents are charged with murder and torture, each facing life in prison.

According to Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey, the final
result of the autopsy will not be released for several weeks, but preliminary conclusions show that Lydia died of a muscle breakdown leading to a chemical and hormonal balance - shutting down her heart and other vital organs. The Schatzes are expected to enter a plea during their court appearance today. In the meantime, this case has sparked a growing firestorm of media attention and blogs with anti-Pearl sentiments posted.

Local radio station KPAY, CBS Channels 13 and 7 in Sacramento have picked up the story, as has Channel 4 Station in Nashville Tennessee. And once again, Salon Magazine tackled the Pearls, "the rod" and reactions to the Pearls' training methods - this time in regards to the death of Lydia Schatz.

Salon Magazine writer Lynn Harris wrote a second article about the Pearls on Monday, "Godly discipline turned deadly," in which she outlines the child training practices and highlights the outrage expressed by many conservative Christians who describe this type of discipline as "horrific."

Harris also authored a 2006 article entitled "Spare the quarter-inch plumbing supply line, spoil the child," which led Butte County District Attorney investigators to look at the methods espoused by No Greater Joy Ministry in this case.

In 2006, the Pearl's methods were briefly connected to the death of a 4-year-old boy, Sean Paddock, who died at his mother's hand in North Carolina. The mother reportedly followed the Pearls' teaching, though the cause of her son's death - suffocation - is not a method the Pearls teach. Harris wrote about Sean Paddock in her first article and she mentions him again in her recently published piece.

She was contacted by Chico resident Paul Mathers, whom she quotes in the article.

Mathers and his wife, Laurie, are Christians who knew the Schatz family, made friends with them when the Schatz couple attended their church for a few months. The Mathers had dinner with the family and be-came familiar with nine Schatz children - six biological children and three adopted from Liberia. In their blogs, they talk about the sorrow, shock and horror they felt when they learned of what happened to Lydia.

They also describe learning about No Greater Joy and the disciplinary methods Michael and Debi Pearl teach.

Laurie Mathers, told The Post yesterday, that the Pearls and their methods were not on their radar until after Lydia died.

"I didn't know what was going on," she said.

When Lydia died, Laurie said they did not know what had happened. They had always thought very highly of the Schatzes.

"We thought maybe it was a mistake," she said. "Like maybe she fell we didn't think this - we thought it had to be a mistake. Then we heard that Zariah was in the hospital and we had to face this. It didn't make any sense until we learned about the Pearl teachings."

As Laurie writes in her blog, "I wanted understanding of what could have led to this tragedy and I got it. The Pearl Method was the missing link. my husband and I have spent hours upon hours since this discovery pouring over Pearl literature, disgusted. Horrified."

"The Pearls preach lies from the pit of hell," Paul Mathers writes in his blog. "I will not sit back and allow them to continue to drag the name of Christ through the mud."

After much research, Mathers described the Pearls' methods as "mora-lly repugnant," "outrageously evil" and "anti-Christian."

Paul alleges in his blog that the Schatzes followed, "to a 'T' the system of child rearing developed by the Pearls. Before Lydia's death, Mathers said he had only known about this system from "furtive whispers." "It was one of the most hate-filled, wicked and evil systems I've encountered in my life, all with a sheen of 'Christian' and 'happy families,'" he said.

For weeks, he and his wife Laurie continued researching the Pearls' methods, but "it gets worse the more you dig," he says.

Reached for comment for a previous article, No Greater Joy CEO Michael Pearl provided a statement in regards to this case. However, he declined any further comment at this time.

"We do not teach "corporal punishment" nor 'hitting' children," Pearl says. "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.

Over 1,000,000 parents have applied these Biblical principles with joyful results."

But Mathers says the Pearl system is anything but biblical.

"One of the major problems is the extremely dangerous and wildly unbiblical position that they preach of sinless perfection being achievable in this lifetime," he writes. "Mix that with a strict discipline system with one's children and you can probably put together for yourself how something like this could happen. You expect sinless perfection and you will whip your child as often as needed if they fall short."

"They claim to be a Christian organization, and yet offer no grace and no mercy," Laurie writes. She believes the Schatzes were deceived and ensconced into a sub-culture that encouraged them to think what they were doing was the best, and even the most Godly thing.

"The Pearl's system does not just mold children, it molds well-meaning parents into the kind of people who think they can and should expect perfect obedience from imperfect and defenseless little creatures," she writes on her blog.

The Mathers are not the only Christians expressing their outrage with Pearl teachings. Rebecca Diamond, a member of Gentle Christian Mommies, is a conservative Christian living in Canada who home-schools her children. Hearing of Lydia's death made her cry, she wrote on her blog,

"They murdered the 7-year-old," Diamond alleges. "That's right - this self-professed, Christian, homeschooling, adoptive family (allegedly) beat a girl to death."

It was even more horrific for Diamond to learn that the family may have been following Michael Pearl's teachings. "I know that God can bring good out of the ashes of any sort of evil," she writes. "I'm praying that the good that arises out of the torture and murder of this child is that people will finally realize the devastation and wrongness and anti-Christness of the Pearl's 'ministry'. And I'm hoping that maybe, this will be the case that forces them to stand trial along with the parents who espoused their 'training' methods all the way to the point of murder."v Another blog,, has an entire section devoted to criticism of the Pearls and No Greater Joy Ministry. The unnamed writer discusses the Schatz case, Lydia's death and she picks apart the statement Michael Pearl provided to The Post, as well as excerpts from various articles and books written by the Pearls.

She says this case shows how loving parents can be vulnerable to false beliefs and abusive practices, "such as those taught by Michael and Debi Pearl."

In addition to the quarter-inch plumbing supply line, District Attorney Ramsey said he now has evidence that is a direct connection between the Schatz case and the teaching of the Pearls and No Greater Joy Ministry. However, he would not disclose the evidence at this time. It is unlikely however, that the Pearls or their ministry would be, or could be, held accountable in any legal sense.

Ramsey doesn't believe such a charge "would fly." He says the Pearls have specifically warned its followers against hitting children, or spanking in any way that severely injures children - which the Schatzes are accused of doing. They also warn parents not to spank their children in anger.

Ramsey said one parent held the 7-year-old down while the other one used the quarter-inch plumbing supply line. Then, Ramsey claims, they would switch places.

"The courts have never charged NGJ Ministries with teaching abuse " writes Michael Pearl in his emailed statement. "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."

Laurie Mathers says even if the Pearls cannot be held legally accountable, she and her husband are hoping for a world where people won't read their books. Realistically speaking, she said, the Pearls' heavy influence "should be considered under the circumstances, but I don't think it excuses the things that happened."

It could, however, help to explain how this could have happened, she said.

So could a witness. Zariah Schatz was interviewed at the DA's office earlier this week, along with her remaining siblings. She had also been interviewed by police at the hospital while she was recovering from her injuries. Ramsey said child victims are interviewed on video tape by a trained child interview specialist.

All of the Schatz children went through the process, he said. Zariah appears to be making a full recovery, he said, describing her as "a very delightful child," and "quite the chatty Cathy."


Michael Pearl LAUGHS

I am on a mission to expose this "ministry" as a result I found the post of Michael and Debbie Pearls To Train Up A Child website

Sick, perv.!

I wonder, is he also laughing about the deaths, messed up ADULTS, who were abused because of his teachings. Oh he goes on and on to talk about Doctors,,,yeah right?

"Laughing at the critics"

Read the blog update... made me shiver knowing exactly what sort of person laughs at those who complain.  Question:  is he the sort of person who would say, " it comes as no surprise that attacks, slander, and false reports come against us and the work we do. Jesus endured the same. We understand that such hostilities are not led by people, but demonic forces of evil. Our work is confirmed because it is opposed." ?

BTW... did you catch the part at the end? 

 Even my chickens are laughing . . . well, actually it more like cackling, because they just laid another organic egg for my breakfast and they know that it was that same piece of ¼ inch plastic supply line that trained the dogs not to eat chicken....

Dogs trained like the children....  children trained like the dogs.... I wonder if Papa Pearl is also laughing his way to the bank.

Beatings as "training."

I lived ten years being "trained" like this, and all it accomplished was to instill in me self-loathing, hatred for the person beating me, and rage - blinding furious rage - I knew it wasn't right while it was being done to me, but I was terrified of my abuser. When an adult has this kind of power over you, what kid is going to admit they don't like being battered???

His arrogant assumption that pounding upon another being, human or animal, is justified, sickening.

Yes and Papa Pearl is

Yes and Papa Pearl is someone who thinks this is also a happy little girl:

"My granddaughters laugh with joy after giving their baby dolls a spanking for “being naughty” because they know their dolls will grow up to be the best mamas and daddies in the world—just like them."

Yep, I was '"trained" like the Pearlesque manor too. yep. This little girl is not being cute. Little girls see their dolls as extensions of themselves. She is beating up her dolly because she cannot beat up the "Big People" (her mom and dad, Papa Pearl, Grandma Pearl), ummmm I remember that finally I would tear the heads off my dolls....I was angry. Taking out on "the defenseless" like I was. Before anyone thinks I grew up being a serial killer, no, I did not kill animals or people, start fires, just beat up my dolls.

I do not think Jesus is very happy with Pearls and especially their teaching that parents should abuse their children in his name.

For some, it gets much MUCH worse

Sometimes, when a child decides to take his frustrated anger out on an animal, (or a living creature that is much smaller), that child is given all sorts of labels.... labels like RAD... labels that put that child in more danger if put in the hands of a therapist that thinks all a troubled child needs is a little holding time in attachment therapy.

Scary, isn't it?


re: Dear Mr. Jesus video

Very sad listening to the child's voice in the court-room testimony featured within the first few minutes of that video.

When it comes to the heartbreaking questions asked by a child, I honestly think too many assume it's the rotten dirt-bag birth parents or the awful institutions doing all the damage to children... very few will dare to think severely damaging abuse/neglect takes place in "good" foster/adoptive homes, too.

Esther Coombs-another victim

That was part of the Esther Coombs trial testimony

Is this the Esther you are

Is this the Esther you are referring to?

Yes that is the Esther

Yes that is the Esther Coombs I'm referred to.

So Esther Combs a-parents

So Esther Combs a-parents used Michael Pearl's methods as well?

Or did they rely on similar methods advocated by the IFB like first Baptist Church of Hammond Indiana preacher Jack Hyles (Combs attended FBC and taught at Hyles Anderson),%20Tracts%20&%20Preaching/Printed%20Books/Dr%20Jack%20Hyles/Blue%20Denim%20and%20Lace/blue_denim_and_lace-chap_46.htm

"How long do I spank? I spank until the will of the child is broken. " Alleged Jack Hyles statements in a 1972 book:

Let the child realize that you are simply representing God in the execution of the punishment. …

Sometimes spanking should leave stripes on the child. …

During the formative years, yea, the infant years, the child should be spanked. As soon as his is old enough to walk away from his parents he should be spanked if he does not walk where they say he should walk. … Parents should not have to remove vases and delicate glass ornaments from living room tables. A house need not become disorderly and full of riots because a baby has come. Start early in disciplining the child. …

The [spanking] ritual should be deliberate and last at least ten or fifteen minutes. … It should be a ritual dreaded by the child. He should not only dread the pain but the time consumed in the ordeal. …

The punishment should always be far in excess of the pleasure enjoyed by doing wrong. …

Never give a child that for which he cries. The baby who cries for attention and gets it will become a child who cries for a toy and gets it…

The spanking should be administered firmly. It should be painful and it should last until the child’s will is broken. It should last until the child is crying not tears of anger but tears of a broken will. As long as he is stiff, grits his teeth, holds on to his own will, the spanking should continue. …

After the spanking tell him why you did it. While he is still crying have him sit down. …

Happy is the child who feels the security of such punishment.

It seems so similar to Pearl's stuff only it started as early as 1972, and probably much earlier.

All so scary and ridiculous...

Abuse in a foster home allowed by the state of Missouri.

I'm involved in a case that I was overwelmed in a car wreck, I was trying to get help to move and did move Sept 1,2010, at this time my teen was told to run away for a bigger room, and riches and the couple became foster parents by the state of MO. The Howertons is their name, and they sexually abused, futhermore mentally abused my daughter. "The child was manipulated the reports said","and the foster parents called her filthy names". Now my child is brainwashed, morals blurred, and embarrassed. The Catholic Charities case worker has abused our family with continual lies, thriving on guilt she holds, and a states person said "the worker is turning therepist and the judge against me because of her grudges along with the filth that was allowed and lies on my other child for retaliation. This case has discredited honest witnesses because of the bent rules to hide the truth, and hurt me and tried to make me look crazy. My Dr. and another therepist says I'm not crazy, just depressed because I have not seen my daughter, since the abuse in foster placement, that Jessica (caseworker) said " my daughter was doing great in", like a broken record. Now my child's placed in a demons for adoption community of christ, that is against our faith in son of the living deity, creator of heaven and earth.
This case has got way out of line with bent rules that were meant to reunify the natural family, instead has abused us with lies, sexual abuse, and the guardian lawyer says "money is the bottom line". Money should not be the trade for reuniting a child with their natural family for a healthy future. Human child trafficking in the adoption state system is against the human race and must be abolished.
Please Help! We are to ban together, end this abuse someway, somehow,this is a imparative situation that is used in the wrong to build the failing economy.
Thankyou for reading,
Johnna Richert 816-872-4328

Laughing on the way to the

Laughing on the way to the bank. Yep, Michael and Debi Pearls - just last year made 1.8 million dollars in sales through their "ministry."

Pound Pup Legacy