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Monday, 1 March 2010

Trouble in Paradise: One member dead, one injured, rest of family in custody

I get a lot of hits on this blog from people searching for information on Michael Pearl. It really spiked yesterday, apparently due to the connection being made between Mike's child-training publications and the recent death of an allegedly 7-year old Liberian girl in Paradise, California. So, it's only fair to my readers that I make some comment.

Really, I'd rather not. While Mike's theology can be quite different than that embraced by historical Christianity, his child training methods aren't unusual enough that I've ever felt a need to comment on them. "Spare the rod, spoil the child" is proverb that's been around at least as long as the English language. That the world view that it represents has been increasingly abandoned in my own lifetime says more about the direction our society is headed than it does about Mike Pearl's orthodoxy.

Here's the story, as told in the Paradise Post:
Paradise, CA: Feb 8, 2010 . . . The Schatzes were arrested early Saturday morning, after Elizabeth Schatz called 9-1-1 to report that her 7-year-old daughter was not breathing. Officers arrived to find the girl, Lydia Schatz, in full cardiac arrest. Officer Tim Denecochea performed CPR and the girl was resuscitated and began breathing again at Feather River Hospital with aid of life support. However, she was pronounced dead later that morning before she could be airlifted to Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento.
She died en route to the Chico Municipal Airport after bad weather prevented a helicopter from making the flight. Police confirmed Monday that the girl was beaten for mispronouncing a word. Officers found 11-year-old Zariah Schatz in the home during the investigation, suffering from significant injuries.

She is listed in critical condition at the Sacramento children's hospital, suffering from kidney failure among other injuries. She is undergoing dialysis treatment in hopes it will help the organs recover. The two girls had reportedly been adopted by the Schatz couple along with a 3-year-old girl from an orphanage in Liberia about three years ago. The other children reportedly told investigators the parents blamed the 11-year-old for "being a bad influence" on her younger siblings. Ramsey said the evidence suggests 7-year-old Lydia Schatz was being disciplined "for hours" prior to the 911 call for mis-pronouncing a word during a home-school reading lesson. When police searched the family's Crestwood Drive residence, they took a photograph of a 15-inch length of tubing lying on the parents' bed next to a children's book about a frog and a toad, which Ramsey said the girl had been reading from.

An autopsy was scheduled to be conducted yesterday to determine the cause of the girl's death, but the results have not been released. Paradise police said they had no record of any prior child abuse complaints against the Schatz couple. Neighbors said the Schatz' were a deeply religious and private family who home-schooled their children and seemed to regiment their behavior.
And this, from the Oroville news feed:
OROVILLE -- A fundamentalist religious philosophy that espouses corporal punishment to "train" children to be more obedient to their parents and God is now being investigated in connection with the death of a young Paradise girl and serious injuries to her sister.

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey confirmed Thursday that other children in the home who have been interviewed told investigators "this philosophy was espoused by their parents." Ramsey said he is also exploring a possible connection to a Web site that endorses "biblical discipline" using the same rubber or plastic tube alleged to have been used to whip the two young ridge girls by their adoptive parents.

In court Thursday, a judge granted a two-week postponement before the children's parents, Kevin Schatz, 46, and Elizabeth Schatz, 42, enter a plea to murder and torture charges that could carry two life terms in prison. The delay will allow the mother to retain legal counsel as her husband did earlier.

The father's attorney, Michael Harvey, declined to comment regarding the specific allegations against the couple until he has a chance to review the evidence.
"All I can say is the family is shocked; they are grieving the loss of their daughter and (ask) that people of faith will pray for everybody involved," the defense attorney stated outside of court Thursday.

The Schatzes were arrested Saturday morning after their adopted daughter, Lydia, age 7, stopped breathing. She was subsequently pronounced dead. Her 11-year-old sister, Zariah Schatz, remains in critical condition at a Sacramento children's hospital, though she is showing some signs of recovery. The two were adopted at the same time with an infant girl, now 3, from the same African orphanage about three years ago, Prosecutors allege the two victims were subjected to "hours" of corporal punishment by their parents on successive days last Thursday and Friday with a quarter-inch-wide length of rubber or plastic tubing, which police reportedly recovered from the parents' bedroom.

Police allege that the younger girl was being disciplined for mis-pronouncing a word during a home-school reading lesson the day before she died. The two young girls reportedly sustained deep bruising and multiple "whip-like" marks on their back, buttocks and legs, which authorities believe resulted in significant muscle tissue breakdown that impaired their kidneys and possibly other vital organs, said Ramsey.
He said investigators are researching a possible connection to an Internet Web site set up by "fundamentalist Christian people" that recommends use of the same whip-like implement "as an appropriate tool for biblical chastisement ... to train a child from infancy to make them a happier child and more obedient to God because they are obedient to the will of their parents," said Ramsey.

The district attorney said some of the Schatzes' six biological children, who were removed from the family home for their protection following the parents' arrest, have made statements suggesting the ridge couple shared this philosophy.

The other children in the home said the same rubber or plastic tube was used on all of them "as a standard method of discipline, but certainly not to the extent of these two girls," Ramsey added. He said it's not clear at this point whether the Schatzes ever visited the Web site in question, which Ramsey stressed "does not endorse hurting or beating a child," nor is connected to any specific church.
I’m not going to comment on the murder charges, other than to say that it’s been legal for some parents to torture and kill some of their children in California since 1967, when Governor Reagan signed a law that decriminalized abortion. More than forty years later, Californians obviously have yet to come to terms with the implications of paterfamilias--or, as the case may be, materfamilias--as a means of population control. Granted, neither of the Schatzes appear to have a medical license, nor is their home a free-standing medical facility protected by the Free Access to Clinic Entrances law. So under current law in America, in which both beating one’s slave to death and killing one’s child after a birth certificate has been issued are both illegal, they appear to be guilty of either being at least a decade or two ahead of their time, or a century and a half behind it.

Let’s focus in this web post on the alleged Michael Pearl connection. Now, I know Michael Pearl to be a great fan of the old-fashioned sport of tomahawk-tossing. In fact, he’s so good at it, he even gives lessons. Let’s say, just hypothetically, that a 15-year old homeschooler joins Mike Pearl at a Family Camp in Tennessee for a week and takes up an interest in tomahawk throwing. Mike gives the person some good pointers, shows how far away to stand, how to aim carefully at the target, et cetera. The person than returns home with one of the tomahawks Mike recommends, and expertly buries one in a neighbor’s skull from 15 paces out. Somebody then calls 911, and the headlines soon read: AUTHORITIES INVESTIGATING TOMAHAWK MURDERER’S TIES TO TENNESSEE EVANGELIST.

Can somebody tell me how this is in any way different?


  1. The more I read about this story the more my heart breaks. This is so awful. I just want to cry every time I read something new.
    I am glad more and more people are speaking out about this.
    I just wanted to point everyone to an excellent response to Pearl’s awful “laughter” that Vyckie Garrison at No Longer Quivering has written.

  2. The cybersphere is alive with discussion on this topic. In contrast to what I wrote, this pastor directly link's Mike Pearl's theology with his child training philosophy.


  3. This extensive article documents the Pearl's child training method as laid out in their own writings. You're not going to get this information from anyone who hasn't read their entire book, carefully.

  4. I agree white man, if anything michael pearl's books teach you how to be a GOOD parent, not an abusive one. But you have to read the whole book to get all the proper context, I'm sure the news media will not...

  5. Here's another one, by a homeschooling mom--including quotes from his works I haven't seen elsewhere.

  6. "Can somebody tell me how this is in any way different?"

    My husband and I are commencing in-depth analysis of the theological basis of the Pearls' child training methods here and here, and its ramifications for cases like the Schatzes.

    And yes, Anonymous, we will do our best to be comprehensive with not just To Train Up a Child, but also the 3 volumes of NGJ that I have here, and the web materials. Please join us.

  7. Regardless of a few "good" pointers and some Scripture verses, the Pearl philosophy is abusive towards women and children. Scripture is not even carefully applied and rightfully divided in many of their writings, especially Debi's writings.

    Jesus said we will know a tree by the fruit it bears. Three dead children is enough to make any intelligent person question the Pearls' philosophy.

    We need to pray for the Pearls, though, and hope that they stop publishing irresponsible documents that can be used by any parent who decides to pay for the book.


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