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The Satanic Temple Takes on Corporal Punishment in Schools

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Courtesy of The Satanic Temple
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The Satanic Temple
A Bilboard by the Satanic Temple in Texas

After a viral video showed a six-year-old being paddled by a principal in Hendry County, questions about corporal punishment come up. There is just one religious organization stepping up in kids' defense: The Satanic Temple.

In 1977, the US Supreme Court found that the Eighth Amendment clause prohibiting "cruel and unusual punishments" did not apply to school students and that teachers could physically punish children without parental permission. With that as the federal stance, it’s up to individual states to decide whether to allow teachers to punish children by swatting, spanking, hitting, or paddling students.

Nineteen states say it’s ok, including Florida.

But one religious organization says it’s not ok and is campaigning to have this practice outlawed. That organization is The Satanic Temple.

“There are seven fundamental tenets of the organization, one of which is the right to bodily autonomy, so that’s where corporal punishment comes into play,” said Malcolm Jarry, the co-founder of The Satanic Temple who heads up the group's “Protect Children Program."

The purpose of this campaign is to “protect our members from being subjected to corporal punishment because we think corporal punishment is such an evil,” said Jarry.

The group arms parents with a religious exemption from corporal punishment. He says this avenue works because while there are few constitutional rights afforded to children in public school, religious freedom is the only right that has emerged as one the courts extend to school-age kids.

“That’s just about the only right students have. It’s really tragic when you read through the court cases,” Jarry said.

Once a parent registers their child, The Satanic Temple puts the school district on notice of the religions’ firmly held belief that corporal punishment is unacceptable.

“And that if they are hit then we will sue the school on those grounds,” Jarry said.

According to a report from the Florida Phoenix, nineteen of Florida’s 67 school districts reported incidents of corporal punishment in the 2017-2018 school year.