Spare the rod, spoil the reporter

spankingMinneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune reporter Rochelle Olson wrote a story that's not really about religion. It's about corporal punishment -- whether and when the government can involve itself in private family disciplinary methods. It's a fascinating topic, although it's one mostly outside the scope of this blog. But the lede was framed in an interesting manner:

When Shawn Fraser's discipline failed to rein in his 12-year-old son, he turned to his religion, taking a wooden paddle to Gerard's upper thighs and posting Bible verses on the refrigerator, Fraser's lawyer told the state Supreme Court on Wednesday.

I think blogger Erin Arlinghaus notes the problem with this sentence well:

Let me get this straight: "Discipline" failed, so he "turned to" striking his son with a paddle, which in newspaper speak is apparently not "discipline," but "religion?" Anyone else see a "discipline equals good, religion equals bad" meme here?

It's not the point of the story but the opening sentence is problematic. What's more, Fraser's religious views are anybody's guess. It's not that families' religious views aren't relevant to stories about discipline. They are. Spare the rod, spoil the child and all that. (On this note, I've been surprised by the absence of religious discussion with regard to the recently proposed spanking ban in Massachusetts.) But when you mention those views, do the reader the favor of stating them explicitly and explaining their relevance.

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