Parents jailed for hurting child’s feelings?

By Bob Unruh

A Christian organization in the United Kingdom is warning parents of a proposed law that could send them to prison for 10 years if they harm their child’s “physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioral development.”

According to the Christian Institute, a 1933 law defines child neglect as a failure to provide the basics for a child, including adequate clothing, food, lodging and medical care.

The vast leap forward proposed by the new bill, however, could include an “amorphous and expansive” definition of injury or abuse, and that would make “every mother and father … at risk of being labeled an abuser,” according to Prof. Frank Furedi.

He wrote in the Independent of London recently that the so-called “Cinderella law” would “turn the emotional landscape of family life into a dangerous battlefield.”

“The aim of this law is to change existing legislation on child neglect by expanding the meaning of criminal abuse to encompass the complicated domain of the emotion,” he said.

He noted the view of Member of Parliament Robert Buckland, a supporter of the law, that it would crack down on the “wicked stepmother of Cinderella. But Furedi explained the definition of abuse is so broad, it would encompass the actions of nearly every parent.

“These days, parents who smoke or drink alcohol in front of children risk being characterized as child-abusers. Opponents of the tradition of male circumcision condemn Jewish and Muslim parents as abusers of children. Health activists denounce parents of overweight children for the same offense. Mothers and fathers who educate their children to embrace the family’s religion have been characterized as child abusers by anti-faith campaigners,” he wrote.

And those actions are objective and measurable, Furedi said. What’s more insidious is defining emotional abuse.

“The concept of emotional cruelty or abuse trumps all other forms of parental misbehavior, for it embraces just about every type of ambiguous, emotionally charged encounter with the family,” the professor of sociology at the University of Kent said.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, for example, defines emotional abuse as “making of fun” of what a child says, Furedi wrote.

“I am not sure what universe the NSPCC inhabits, but in the real world, the making fun of one another is the stuff of family life. When parents and children interact, they are likely to make jokes at each others’ expense,” he said.

Furedi explained that abuse can include both actions that are “beyond the child’s developmental capability” as well as “age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children.”

“In other words, just about anything that is not middle-of-the road, unimaginative child-rearing is a potential quarry for the abuse-mongers,” he said.

The institute said the sweeping law reportedly will be in the Queen’s Speech June 4, which establishes goals and priorities for legislation.

The institute said there already are about 22,000 children on child protection registers for neglect. In each case, a social worker can intervene at will.

The Telegraph’s Philip Johnston asked: “How would we measure adequate amounts of parental affection or emotional commitment, and who would decide? Is this an area that the state should be getting involved in at all?”

Lobbying for the law is a group called Action for Children, whose CEO, Tony Hawkhead, said, “This is a monumental step forward for thousands of children who we know suffer from emotional abuse and countless others whose desperate situations have yet to come to light.”

It’s the second radical child-focused bill proposed in the U.K. recently.

WND reported recently on a plan adopted by the Scottish Parliament to have the government appoint a guardian for each newborn in the nation who would have authority to monitor the child and make decisions about his or her life.

The Christian Institute, which is pursuing the legal action, said its lawyers have sent a letter to the government charging lawmakers are overstepping their authority.

Colin Hart, the head of the Christian Institute, called the Children and Young People Bill an “invasion of the most grotesque nature which undermines the rights and responsibilities of ordinary mums and dads who are trying their best to raise their children in the best way they see fit.”

Liz Smith, a Scottish Conservative Party official, told the London Telegraph, the law will “tip the balance of family responsibility away from parents toward the state – something which most parents find completely unacceptable.”

The Catholic Church, the Church of Scotland and a number of legal organizations have opposed the law.

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