On October 29, 2013, Larry and Carri Williams of Sedro Woolley, Washington, were sentenced to 28 and 37 years in prison, respectively, for causing the death of their adopted daughter Hana Williams just after midnight on May 12, 2011. She was approximately 13 years old. She died of hypothermia and malnutrition after being systematically beaten, starved, and forced outside in the cold by her adoptive parents as punishment for her “rebelliousness.”
The Williamses had adopted Hana just three years earlier in 2008. The last year of her life was particularly brutal. In that year she lost 30 pounds due to her parents withholding food from her as punishment. Weighing only 78 pounds at the time of her death, her body was covered with welts and bruises from the beatings her parents had administered. They regularly punished her for such “offenses” as refusing to stand in a twelve inch circle that they had ordered her to stand in.
- Sean Paddock, 4, of Johnston County, North Carolina, died of suffocation at the hands of his adoptive mother, Lynn Paddock, on February 26, 2006. She had been systematically spanking her children according to the Pearls’ advice.
- Lydia Schatz, 7, of Paradise, California, died on February 6, 2010, as a result of hours of beating by her adoptive parents, Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz. Her “offense” in her final beating was that she had mispronounced a word in her reading exercises.
All three of these families believed in the child-raising principles advocated in To Train Up A Child. And though they went far beyond what the Pearls advocate in the book, the deaths of their children were linked to beliefs and practices inculcated in them by the Pearls’ book.
In To Train Up A Child, the Pearls advocate “training” children to absolute obedience by systematically hitting them with instruments such as a plastic plumbing supply tube whenever they disobey commands—including contrived and arbitrary commands—given by their parents.
Michael Pearl runs a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization called No Greater Joy Ministries. To Train Up A Child is its best-known product. He preaches at a small fundamentalist church in the town of Pleasantville, Tennessee, where he and his wife Debi live.
He claims that the methods of corporal punishment (or “spanking,” as he prefers to call it) in To Train Up A Child are based on the Bible. But as we will see, his methods are more like the behaviorism of atheist scientist B. F. Skinner than they are like anything found in the Bible.