An Indiana mother says Governor Mike Pence's Religious Freedom Restoration Act made it legal to beat her child with a coat hanger.
And she might be right.
The RFRA was revised last year after LGBT activists warned it could be used as a "license to discriminate," but it's still on the books. Caveats were added that make clear it can't be used by businesses to turn away gay customers. Still, Pence's law says Indiana cannot otherwise interfere with sincerely held religious beliefs of its citizens.
In this case, the Indianapolis Star reports that Kin Park Thaing, who is an evangelical Christian, said the Bible tells her that anyone who "spares the rod, spoils the child." Thaing's lawyers cited Proverbs 23:13: "Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol."
Here's how that scripture played out in the life of Thaing's 7-year-old son, according to the Star:
"A teacher patted the boy on the back and saw him flinch, according to court records. The teacher saw red welts on the boy and reported the observations to police and child welfare officials.
"A doctor at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health found 36 bruises across the boy's back, thigh and left arm. Three photographs submitted to the court show deep purple lines striping the boy's back and several welts on his arm. The boy has one curved bruise on his cheek in the shape of a hook on a coat hanger."
The Atlantic wrote that "Religious Freedom Doesn't Protect Child Abuse." It quoted James Dwyer, a law professor at William and Mary, who argued that "It's totally implausible that you could ever win [a case like this] on a religious defense." He says that courts won't allow for beating with a coat hanger because it's unusual and "an especially gruesome form of corporal punishment."
But not everyone agrees.
"Thaing is likely to win," wrote Jay Michaelson of The Daily Beast. He argues that "while protecting child welfare is a compelling state interest, Indiana's law has no exemption to accommodate religious believers." as it did for LGBT discrimination, lawmakers could have included an exception for child abuse but didn't.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, reacted to the case with horror. LGBT activists had actually called for the complete repeal of the RFRA in Indiana instead of merely tweaking it.
Pence, who is running for vice president alongside Donald Trump, has not commented on the case.