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Mass. Court Mulls Father’s Spanking

September 14, 1999

BOSTON (AP) _ Massachusetts’ highest court is weighing whether a father’s spanking of his young son is proper discipline or abuse.

The issue came before the Supreme Judicial Court on appeal by attorneys for Donald Cobble, a minister from Woburn, who has admitted using the end of a leather belt to spank his fully clothed son, Judah, once or twice a month.

Earlier, a lower court sided with state Department of Social Services officials who filed abuse charges against Cobble in March 1997 after the boy told a teacher about his father’s spankings.

Under questioning from the seven-judge panel Monday, State Assistant Attorney General Juliana Rice said the agency filed a report on Cobble after determining his methods raised a ``substantial risk of physical injury″ to Judah, now 12.

Cobble’s attorney, Chester Darling, said there is no evidence his client inflicted abuse. He said the punishment is ``mild, loving, routine, structured″ spanking.

``Every scrap that’s in that record supports the fact there was no injury to this child,″ Darling told the judges.

The court has taken the case under advisement.

The state had filed abuse charges against Cobble but offered to drop the charges if he agreed to stop spanking. He refused.

Cobble, a pastor at the Christian Teaching and Worship Center, has quoted Biblical passages to justify why he spanks and has argued that the state is interfering with his religion if it interferes with his spanking.

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