The death of Lydia Schatz

The deeper we dig into Patriarchal Christianity, the more rot and corruption we find, so we dig again, and find more, so we dig again, and…

We find for instance (via Janet Heimlich at Religious Child Maltreatment) Elizabeth and Kevin Schatz of Paradise California, who beat their adopted daughter Lydia, age 7, to death.

The Schatzes adopted Lydia and her sister Zariah, a year older, from Liberia…and proceeded to beat them for hours on end. Lydia’s casus flagendi was getting a word wrong during a homeschooling lesson.

 According to authorities, when the Schatzes beat Lydia, they took breaks to pray. They then resumed the torture, as one held the child down while the other whipped her with 1/4-inch wide plumbing line. Lydia died from the beatings. Zariah barely survived, having suffered kidney failure and other injuries.

The Schatzes did not come up with their disciplinary methods all on their own. They were followers of the Tennessee-based No Greater Joy Ministries, which is operated by a fundamentalist Christian minister named Michael Pearl and his wife, Debi. The Pearls’ book To Train up a Child is hugely popular among Christian homeschooling parents; it has sold more than 650,000 copies and has been translated into many foreign languages, according to the Pearls’ website. The Pearls strongly advocate for the spanking of children—even those who have committed minor infractions—saying that God demands that parents spank. The Pearls suggests that spankers use implements rather than the hand, because “hands are for loving and helping.”

In particular, the Pearls believe that 1/4-inch-wide plumbing line is ideal for spanking children. “It will fit in your purse or hang around your neck. You can buy them [sic] for $1.00 at Home Depot or any hardware store,” notes Michael Pearl on his website. He adds that sections of the pipe “come cheaper by the dozen and can be widely distributed in every room and vehicle. Just the high profile of their accessibility keeps kids in line.” The Pearls’ book was found in the Schatz home with passages underlined. Police photographed a section of 1/4-inch plumbing pipe lying on the parents’ bed next to a children’s book.

What else is there to say?


  1. says

    Ms. Benson,

    I am the writer of the 3 paragraph quote you have included in your post. Your efforts are well-intentioned but it is illegal to steal copy in this way.

    I trust you will attribute my work to me or take down this post immediately.

    Thank you,

    Janet Heimlich

  2. says

    This story is so heartrending. It made my stomach churn. To think that the adopted family, who bear the ‘darling’ name, did not have it in them, to live up to it, with their precious adopted children from a far off foreign land. ‘Schatz’? Verdammt noch mal.

    I sincerely hope they are punished severely for the inhumane treatment towards the defenseless children, who were entrusted into their care. No human being has any right, whatsoever, to lay a flogging instrument on a child.

    “hands are for loving and helping.” What a larf! The hands of the sister will surely be put to good loving use, when she will most likely have to stand before the grave of her sister and use them to dry her tearful eyes. The Darling-less folk will have a lot to answer for the ongoing pain and grief of her darling sister.

  3. says

    I’m sure the attribution will follow in due course, Ms Heimlich; until it does, if nothing else be assured that Ms Benson’s ‘Butterflies & Wheels’ is a large and popular skeptical/atheist/humanist blog, and that your work is receiving entirely appropriate attention.

    Your writing in this area is simply outstanding.

  4. Ambrosia says

    Ms. Heimlich;

    I am not Ophelia Benson, but there is a link in the second paragraph of the post which links to the letter of which you speak.

    As one of the Internet Traditions(tm), this is generally considered to be fair use and attribution.

  5. says

    “I trust you will attribute my work to me or take down this post immediately.”

    There is a link up above that leads directly to your very sad article. Does that not sufficiently take into consideration your attribution, from your perspective?

  6. Stilts says

    What’s pissing me off: in the article where they advocate beating your children with plumbing supplies, they also remind parents not to abuse their children in public areas (including church washrooms!), lest someone overhear their vigorous attempts to invoke “constraining force” and report them to “the Gestapo”.

    Because, you know, when Child Protective Services steps in to prevent you from beating your own child to death with plumbing equipment, they’re being total Nazis. Or something. I don’t even know.

  7. marta says

    Ms. Hiemlich,

    By providing a link to your original post, Ophelia Benson does more than provide attribution to you. She provides a means for her readers to read what you wrote, in its’ entirety.

    The suggestion that Ophelia Benson is attempting to steal your copy is preposterous.

  8. Josh Slocum says

    I would also point out that under US law (not just Internet tradition) what Ophelia did is squarely under the Fair Use doctrine. This allows republication of excerpts of another’s work for purposes of commentary, criticism, illustration, etc. There was nothing even questionable about this let alone illegal.

    Ms. Heimlich – I’m really puzzled why’re you’re so upset. Ophelia and the regular commenters here are in sympathy with the work you do. And, she did cite you with a link. Is it possible you simply read too fast and didn’t notice that?

  9. Carlie says

    The paragraphs in question are also clearly a blockquote from the original; the indentation along with the grey line down the side is an internet indication of quoting in the same way that quotation marks are in print.

  10. Ophelia Benson says

    Sorry, I was Away From My Desk. Thanks all.

    Janet Heimlich – sorry; the link was intended as the citation. As readers have said, that is internet custom. By the nature of the subject, readers are very likely to follow the link and read your excellent piece in its entirety.

    I added your name though.

  11. Pierce R. Butler says

    … 1/4-inch-wide plumbing line is ideal for spanking children. “It will fit in your purse or hang around your neck…”

    Does one wear this above or below the other instrument of torture and death with which many Christians adorn themselves so fondly?

  12. Ophelia Benson says

    Yikes – that’s a point.

    “What’s that around your neck?”

    “Oh it’s what I use to beat my children.”


  13. Art says

    Beating people with a rubber hose has always been popular with dictators as an alternative method of control. Both quicker and easier than the more time consuming and involved methods of discussion, debate, communication, and negotiation.

    One wonders how a well beaten child might react fifty years later when the parent is the one who wears diapers, acts inappropriately, gets distracted, loses control, gets messy, and forgets things. The good news is that modern plumbing supplies are made of synthetic materials that will likely still be supple and effective as tools of discipline fifty or sixty years from now.

    Live by the sword …

    And the wheel goes round …

  14. says

    “What’s that around your neck?”

    “Oh it’s what I use to beat my children.”

    What’s that around your waist?

    (The long, hard, excessively thick leather belt, which draped along the long black skirt, which fell to the ground).

    Oh it’s what I use to beat the children. (Said she frothing at the mouth).

    Brush handles, pointers, farm implements, drain rods, rubber tyres, fan belts were commonly used by Christian brothers to flog children

  15. Ophelia Benson says

    One more note for Janet Heimlich – no one reading it will have thought it was all my writing. The link serves as a notification that it isn’t, and as Carlie said, the blockquotes are a notification that I’m quoting, and the post starts off with talk of digging, which in this context clearly means finding the work other people have been doing.

    Your piece is brilliant, and very affecting. Thank you for writing it.

  16. says

    You have to remember, the beating (or “spanking,” as they call it) is done in the name of love. And the child is told that. Some kids grow up resenting it, especially if the severity was extreme, but others grow up believing that those who love their children hit them, and go on to do the same to their children. I know because I almost was one of these parents, until I realized that I was spanking my ten month old for curiosity, not disobedience, and rethought the Pearls’ methods entirely. Needless to say, I no longer spank, nor will I ever.

  17. 'Tis Himself, pour encourager les autres says

    I listened to the Pearls in the link Libby Anne gave in the first post. Michael Pearl in particular comes across as a gloating sadist using his religion to justify his sadism. His wife isn’t much better, or perhaps she was beaten into submission by her husband.

  18. Ophelia Benson says

    Yes, I just watched that video in Libby’s post too. I’m still lachrymose.

    The Pearls and their books are terrifying.

  19. says

    Perhaps – if JH was more cognizant of the voluminous work OB has been writing / highlighting over these long years, regarding stoning of women and children; institutional child abuse, humanitarian issues etc, that in all probability she would be more ‘heimlich’ about her excerpt being given an airing at FtB. I could be totally wrong, though, as, she could, well, be very familiar with B&W?! It’s such a pity that a sad issue, as this one, should get sidelined, due to perceived legalities, as opposed to the devastatingly powerful contents of said article.

  20. says

    Pierce has a really creepy point.

    It reminds me of a comment made by one of the Python crew during the controversy over Life of Brian: if Jesus were executed in the modern day (in, say, France or the US — at the time France still had the death penalty), would that mean Christians would be wearing little guillotines or electric chairs around their necks?

  21. 'Tis Himself, pour encourager les autres says

    Incidentally, spanking is done with the hand. Whipping is done with flexible cord. 1/4-inch plumbing pipe is a functional whip. Using a whip doesn’t physically hurt the whipper, while a spanker’s hand soon begins to hurt.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *