A Wisconsin pastor has been charged with felony physical abuse of a child after he spanked his 12-year-old son for lying and a teacher notified social services.
Barry W. Barnett Jr., 43, of Poynette, Wis., is free on a $10,000 bond, but he could face up to three years in prison and fines for disciplining his son, the local Portage Daily Register reported.
At the pastor’s hearing, Barnett’s son said his father was right to spank him .
“He gave me a chance to tell him the truth, and I just kept lying to him,” the boy said.
The boy said his father gave him two “swats” that “hurt a little” on his rear end in June. He told authorities both he and his dad cried while he was disciplined.
The 12-year-old said he was warned he might receive a spanking if he continued to act up and that he understands what he did was wrong.
“You should not lie to your parents and you should not go to places (where you are not allowed),” he said.
One of his siblings mentioned the spanking to a teacher, who called social services, according to the report.
A June 7 report from the Divine Savior Healthcare emergency department indicated that the boy had slight bruising on his buttocks, but it said there was no swelling and he was not experiencing pain. The medical paperwork said the boy told physicians he didn’t think he was abused and he loves his father.
The documents show the boy’s doctor does not believe he was abused, and he called the event a “social services fiasco.”
Barnett is a pastor at Lighthouse Family Ministries in Poynette, Wis. A father of nine children, he founded Guardian Christian Academy.
A judge ruled Thursday that the case will head to trial. Now jurors at the Columbia County Courthouse will decide whether the spanking constituted “reasonable discipline” permitted under state law. The pastor’s 21-year-old daughter, Amber, stood outside with a sign that read, “Thank you for spanking me dad” as a showing of support for her father.
District Attorney Jane Kohlwey told the Portage Daily Register the spanking was not reasonable, because it left bruising, though Barnett’s attorney claims photographs only reveal red marks.
“We feel that he went beyond reasonable discipline and that it’s a pattern,” Kohlwey said.
Barnett has been forbidden from spanking any child as part of his bond.