The deaths of three children have been linked to parents who reportedly own a popular but controversial spanking book by a Tennessee preacher. The book, To Train Up a Child, by Michael Pearl of the No Greater Joy Ministry, promotes using a switch on babies as young as 6 months and plumbing tubing on older children to keep them in line—much like "stubborn mules" are disciplined. Some 700,000 parents, many of them home-schoolers, have purchased the self-published tome, including parents who are either currently serving prison time or have been charged in the abuse and beating deaths of three young children in the last 5 years, reports the New York Times. Pearl says it's unfair to blame his book for the actions of unstable parents, but physicians and law enforcement authorities have expressed concerns about the book's role in child abuse.
“My fear is that this book, while perhaps well intended, could easily be misinterpreted and could lead to what I consider significant abuse," a pediatrician who examined one of the dead children told the Times. The book threatens to escalate violence against children because it advises that “if you don’t get results, the only thing to do is to punish harder and harder," says a woman who runs a Christian-based blog opposed to corporal punishment. Parents worried about the book have organized to pressure outlets like Amazon.com to stop selling it. One of the Pearls' five children, now 28, recalls having a "wonderful" childhood, even though her dad says she was spanked some 50 times as a toddler. Click for more from the Times' piece. (Read more Michael Pearl stories.)