What J. Richard Fugate Says About… Tolerating Child Abuse

J. Richard and Virginia Fugate.

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

J. Richard Fugate is well-known within the Christian Homeschool Movement for his advocacy of child training practices that emphasize parental authority and whipping children with tree branches and dowel rods. The founder of the Foundation for Biblical Research, Fugate is the former CEO of the popular homeschooling curriculum company Alpha Omega Publications. Alpha Omega’s curriculums are recommended by HSLDA and highly praised by Cathy Duffy’s Cathy Duffy Reviews, Mary Pride’s Practical Homeschooling, and Paul and Gena Suarez’s Old Schoolhouse Magazine; Alpha Omega is an HSLDA discount group. Fugate has also served as the Vice-President of Finance for another popular homeschool curriculum company, Accelerated Christian Education, and the Business Manager of Reb Bradley’s homeschool organization, Family Ministries.

Fugate’s seminal book on child training is What the Bible Says About… Child Training, published by Alpha Omega Publications in 1980. Over 260,000 copies of the book have been sold to date. In the book, Fugate claims to set forth “the Biblical system for training children” “without human adulteration” (1-2). This system consists of two elements: controlling and teaching. “The controlling phase,” Fugate writes, “is the establishment of the parents’ right of rulership over the will of the child” (1). His system is fixated on the idea of parental control (or rulership), in which the parent becomes the child’s symbolic “Most High” (121). Indeed, Fugate believes control to be more important than the second step of teaching: “The primary role of the parent is to act as an external control over the child’s nature” (52).  This right to control or rule is virtually unlimited: “Government has no right to administer justice…or to exercise authority over other independent institutions, like family and marriage” (26).

Fugate expands on this lack of limits, arguing that “no other institution or person has rulership rights over children.” In cases of abuse, “Parents are directly responsible to God for any misuse of their authority. There is no such thing as ‘child rights’ sanctioned by the Word of God. The child has only the God-given right to be raised by his parents without the intervention of any other institution” (31).

Fugate’s rejection of children’s rights leads him to reject nearly all government intervention on behalf of children. (He makes exceptions only for extremes like child rape and murder.) He rails against “child advocacy agencies and child abuse laws,” saying that, “Parents must not allow government to usurp their authority in those areas in which God alone holds the parents accountable” (32).

Instead of government intervening on behalf of abused children, Fugate believes that children should consider their abuse to be God “preparing such a child to glorify Himself through suffering.” In fact, in the event that you become aware that a child is being abused, Fugate does not encourage you to report the abuse to the proper authorities. Rather, he encourages you to simply “remember that God is in control”:

Parents who misuse their authority fall under the direct judgment of God. When we see a child receive what we consider mistreatment from such parents, we must remember that God is in control and has chosen to place the soul life of that child under those parents specifically. God has a plan for every life, a plan that incorporates even the unfairness of this world. Perhaps the child who receives unfair treatment at the hand of his parents requires just that kind of pressure in order to submit his will to God. Perhaps God is preparing such a child to glorify Himself through suffering just as Job did. God’s plan is greater than anything we can comprehend with our finite minds in our limited moment of time. We see an innocent, defenseless child while God sees a soul for which He has made complete provision. God makes no mistakes; therefore we must allow Him to deal with rebellious parents. (36-7)

In the later half of his book, Fugate again addresses a situation of abusive parents. This time the situation is when one spouse is abusive and the other is not: “Occasionally a parent with a serious sin problem in his own life will truly abuse his child under the guise of chastisement. Such a parent has a soul problem that can only be permanently solved by spiritual means.” Once again, Fugate does not encourage the spouse of the abusive parent to report the abuse to the proper authorities or even take the children away to a safe space. Instead, he gives truly dangerous advice: he tells the spouse to simply “control” the abused children more so that they do not “cause” the abusive parent to continually abuse them. Fugate writes,

If the father has the problem, the mother must take special care to control the children herself. She can train the children not to give their father cause to express his anger against them… The more stable parent must maintain the children’s respect of the other parent. (146)

Tragically, Fugate is not alone among conservative and evangelical child training experts in making such a recommendation. Michael Pearl makes a similar suggestion in his now-infamous book To Train Up a Child. Pearl argues,

Mother, if you think the father is too forceful in his discipline, there is something you can do. While he is away demand, expect, train for and discipline to receive instant and complete obedience from your children. When the father comes home the house will be peaceful and well ordered. The children will always obey their father, giving him no need to discipline them. (58)

Fugate and Pearl essentially want children to tolerate their abuse and walk on eggshells around their abusers. Unfortunately, these suggestions will only further enable and empower an abuser.*** These suggestions will also contribute to the devastating impact of spiritual abuse, as children believe they must be masochistic about the abuse they experience: feeling they have to “praise” God for their pain and not expect the authorities in their lives to seek justice against those who hurt them.

*****

*** If your spouse is abusive towards your children, what should you do, if not heed Fugate’s advice?

Far better advice comes from Kathryn Patricelli at Mental Health Net:

For children who are currently being abused, the main goal is to remove the child from the abuser. The following is a list of possible solutions:

  • Get the child away from the abuser, even if this involves sending the child to live somewhere else (e.g., with other family members or friends).
  • Get abuse to stop by making police reports or anonymous reports to your state’s Child Protective Services department. Please know that reports may need to be made repetitively (many times in a row) before any action gets taken.
  • Get the child a medical exam to ensure that child is being treated for any physical injuries and so that abuse is documented.
  • Get the child into counseling with a therapist who specializes in working with abused children.

30 comments

  • Loura Shares A Story

    Ugh. “Control and teach”, huh? Guess they never read the story of the Prodigal Son?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      It’s the latest version of the Great Chain of Being — from God to Pastor to Parent to Child.

      Like that long-ago Beetle Bailey strip:
      * The General yells at the Colonel.
      * The Colonel yells at the Major.
      * The Major yells at the Captain.
      * The Captain yells at the Lieutenant.
      * The Lieutenant yells at Sergeant Snorkel.
      * Sergeant Snorkel yells at Private Bailey.
      * Private Bailey kicks the barracks dog.

      Boots on faces all the way down.

  • Total crap. Loving others as yourself is part of the highest commandment. And Jesus said “When you did it not to the least of these, you did it not for me.”

    This “God makes no mistakes in putting a child there, so do nothing” is stupid: We intervene in society and influence the circumstances in every possible way. Other similar arguments: “God made no mistake in letting J. Richard Fugate step in a thorn/ not placing a meal right before Fugate/ letting Fugate wake up in a certain home. So Fugate should not pull a thorn from his foot/ get food/ leave the home.” “God made no mistake in not printing Fugate’s books himself, so Fugate’s books should not exist.”

    Oh, wait. Perhaps that last sentence was true.

    I bet that if you ask this guy, he will call himself pro-life. It is even possible that he would call for prosecuting pregnant women who drink or use drugs. Those views are, of course, very incompatible with his “parental rights” views.

  • Beyond frustrated

    God “preparing such a child to glorify Himself through suffering.”

    Unfortunately what this often “prepares” the child for is a life of either abusing others or accepting abuse and being unable to stand up to, or get away from a later abuser. What that really boils down to is being unable to stand against sin.

  • “This system consists of two elements: controlling and teaching. “The controlling phase,” Fugate writes, “is the establishment of the parents’ right of rulership over the will of the child” (1). His system is fixated on the idea of parental control (or rulership), in which the parent becomes the child’s symbolic “Most High” (121). Indeed, Fugate believes control to be more important than the second step of teaching: “The primary role of the parent is to act as an external control over the child’s nature” (52). This right to control or rule is virtually unlimited: “Government has no right to administer justice…or to exercise authority over other independent institutions, like family and marriage” (26).”

    That explains SO MUCH. And I’m thoroughly disgusted now.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      “Government has no right to administer justice…or to exercise authority over other independent institutions, like family and marriage” (26).”

      Only the Great Chain of Being, i.e. Who Holds the Biggest Whip — God stomps on Pastor who Stomps on Parent who Stomps on Child. Suck up to those who hold the bigger Whip, use your own Whip on those below you. Until the one at the bottom of the Chain without a Whip to hold gets to Feel the Whip.

  • I met Richard Fugate a a Homeschool Conference 1995. I was at that time considering homeschooling our two youngest. I found him to be very arrogant , prideful, patronizing and condescending

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  • Snark begins:
    Well, here and there, one finds truly Biblical exhortation to correct children who are born after all, little vipers. My older brother was very liberal, weak-hearted and used to count to three before laying into the kids with a handy object. Like a little sucky baby he would wait while they disobeyed by ignoring a call to dinner or whatever. What a whimp!
    Why if he had read the God-inspired interpretations of scripture by Richard Fugate, my brother would have done God’s will and beat those kids straight to a place of hellish reality and torturous misery, a place so lacking in love and hope that they would surely awaken to Christ’s holy sacrifice, to God’s full command!
    Let us all stand together and smash our children down till they know God’s truth. Let us beat our babies till they have cried so hard they will never be recovered by the Devil again.
    It is Biblical: Ignore it at your own peril. Look to wise theologians, preachers of the true Word like Doug Wilson who was physically corrected as a child because as he so wisely shares, “I deserved it!”
    Look at this real-man, super tool for God in the world, how he puts on the full armor and lets fallen women harass him their sexual secrets and chastises them for Jesus, refuses them the communion they do not deserve! Now there, in that man, we see the future of real belief!
    Snark ends.
    Sigh.

  • “Parents who misuse their authority fall under the direct judgment of God.”

    Yes, they do.

    “When we see a child receive what we consider mistreatment from such parents, we must remember that God is in control and has chosen to place the soul life of that child under those parents specifically.”

    We also have laws to protect children and we have an obligation to report abuse and to remove children from abusive parents.

    “God has a plan for every life, a plan that incorporates even the unfairness of this world.”

    “God’s plan” never included child abuse. He will judge those who abuse children if they do not repent.

    “Perhaps the child who receives unfair treatment at the hand of his parents requires just that kind of pressure in order to submit his will to God.”

    “unfair”? This isn’t about a big sister who always gets new clothing and the younger sister gets the hand-me-downs. Children often perceive that their parents are are treating them unfairly, but abuse goes beyond “unfairness”. But this isn’t about “unfairness”. It is about abuse of children, and abuse threatens the life of the child. We are obligated as a civil society to protect children from others who wish to do them harm.

    “Perhaps God is preparing such a child to glorify Himself through suffering just as Job did. God’s plan is greater than anything we can comprehend with our finite minds in our limited moment of time. We see an innocent, defenseless child while God sees a soul for which He has made complete provision.”

    Well, this is really a gross mishandling Scripture. Equating abused children with Job? While I would certainly agree that “God’s plan is greater than anything we can comprehend with our finite minds in our limited moment of time”, that does not justify mistreating children. Yes, God can and does make all things new, and he can certainly use our past to glorify Himself, as He did with Job, but he will not reward anyone who abuses others. Children who are abused should be removed from those who are abusing them.

    “God makes no mistakes; therefore we must allow Him to deal with rebellious parents. (36-7)”

    God has instituted government and authority for the protection of human life, and He does not condone turning an blind eye to abuse and covering it up.

    • The concept of “god” exists only in the human mind, and there are as many definitions of “god” as there are human minds (currently more than 72 billion and growing). Each person’s definition is equally invalid. God is as fungible as money: It can be used for any purpose, good or bad, making god a dangerous concept.

      Fugate’s disgusting, sick patriarchal teachings are among the worst purposes: Encouraging child abuse. He hides behind his perverted version of the imaginary sky friend called god just so he can beat up on children.

      Our beloved Constitution gives Americans, including children, the RIGHT to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” No exceptions are made for parents to abuse their children. If someone could prove Fugate or any other person beat up on a child, he should go to jail.

      • 1. There are almost seven billion people on Earth, not seventy billion.

        2. The US has refused to sign on to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The UCRC guarantees that, if necessary, action will be taken against nations that do not mandate that each child have access to education and healthcare, that children have the right to not suffer abuse, and so on.

        America will not sign. The only other holdout, worldwide, is Somalia. Have a good think about that; Somalia.

  • “His system is fixated on the idea of parental control (or rulership), in which the parent becomes the child’s symbolic “Most High” (121). ”

    A symbolic “Most High” is a “Most High” who is not God. A “Most High” who is not God is an idol.

    Jesus did not say: “Be called Rabbi: for one is your teacher, even Christ; and ye should symbolize him.
    And call a man your father upon the earth: for your Father in heaven should be symbolized.
    Mat 23:10 Be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ, and He needs to be symbolically represented.
    (In Matthew 23:8-10, read what he actually said, which is about the opposite.)

    “The primary role of the parent is to act as an external control over the child’s nature” (52)
    That, taken to its logical conclusion, would mean that a parent who ties up a child in the basement, never allowing the child to move, is successful in his or her biggest task – (s)he externally controlled the child to do nothing bad. On the other hand, a child who behaves well 99% of the time is not perfectly controlled, and the parent is by this logic not as successful in the main task of parents.

    • “That […] would mean that a parent who ties up a child in the basement, never allowing the child to move, is successful in his or her biggest task – (s)he externally controlled the child to do nothing bad”

      And? That’s not exactly contrary to christian “parenting” techniques such as blanket training and tomato staking. That’s how perfect little god-bots are created.

  • Does anyone else find it ironic someone of such a libertarian persuasion advocates an ideology perfectly calculated to populate society with obedient drones conditioned to carry out unquestioningly the edicts of the closet ‘Most High’?

    – the lemur

    • John, I am a simple man and do not understand your reference to libertarian here. Are you referring the the man who writes books about controlling children, breaking their wills for God? That does not seem exactly libertarian to me. If you are referring to big-man-of-God, Fugate, then I am at a loss. It seems to me that he honors the Christian way and simply blows off Government when he feels it does not fall in line with scripture.
      But for being a controlling, abusive coward who hits children, he strikes me as very much like many of the dads in my Fellowship Baptist upbringing. Are you suggesting he is not a real Christian but some other religion?
      And regarding drones, I have found many of my fellow church attenders who have been saved, very drone-like, refusing to reason for themselves and deferring always to Authority, most often the pastor in the evangelical church.
      I think I agree with your overall statement, the irony; in fact I find it very ironic indeed that that this abusive bastard dares to speak for Jesus in encouraging life-long damage to children through punishing, shame and blame.
      Sometimes, I wish to meet the ‘Most High” alone and demonstrate on him what he has not only condoned but practiced on poor children. I do my best to love my neighbor but I do not love people who harm children. I hate them with all my heart. They have not a sliver of courage in themselves to deal with the suffering in their own lives that turned them into abusers. They pass on their pain and use the word GOD to excuse their harm.

    • “Lemur” John Smith, you are not the first to notice that.

      Authority, when it refers to how they should act towards anyone above them:
      “Hey, they have no authority over me. I have God, not them, as my authority! ‘Submit to government” in the Bible has a very limited application, it only means I should submit if they are right. And I get to decide when they are right.”

      Authority, when it refers to how those below them should act towards them:
      “Hey, I am God’s symbol in my child’s life and Jesus for my wife. ‘Submit to your husband” and “obey your parents” in the Bible means nobody should stop me if I abuse them.”

      Libertarianism for themselves, but not for those they could subjugate.

      Blogger Lewis Wells said (you can Google it, links may cause this comment to be moderated):

      “The most disturbing thing about the hyper-fundamentalist, patriocentric crowd, though, is the hypocrisy of every political position they take. They want the government out of their lives as much as possible, with intrusion at an absolute minimum, no Big Brother forcing them to do things they don’t want, telling them how to do the things they are allowed to do. No controlling or meddling in their lives in areas the government has no right to be snooping and directing. They likely consider the old Soviet Union and it’s oppressive communist system to be very much the “Evil Empire” Reagan described it as. Freedom, freedom, and more freedom, so they say. I’m with them so far.

      They want corndogs, apple-pie, Pepsi and Coke, and freedom galore for everyone, so they say – except for their own families (who are treated like their own personal state property), ruling their own homes in the oppressive style of Stalin, and except for those with opposing political views. Freedom…for them to be unabated religious tyrants and control the lives of others.

      Democracy for themselves. Communism for their families and enemies.

      Maybe it’s just me, but I just can’t get the math to work out right.”

      • great quote Retha.

        As Retha has implied Brian, the libertarian bit refers to his firm rejection of state interference. Yet in his personal life, he acts decidedly against the spirit of a free society.

        – lemur

  • This guy is off his rocker and people like him are the reason why the world sees true Believers in such a bad light. He is twisting and using scripture to justify his messed up, self induced ideas/desires and it is disgusting. After seeing this I would never ever support him by purchasing his curriculum or books, not in a million years!

  • Thanks for explaining that, Lemur. There are some finer points I think I miss when comparing Christians, particularly evangelicals with the libertarians. With regard to government and specifically the government staying out of family business, I see big changes in the last decade or so in America. Seems to me that the Christian Right, as it is called, wants to take control for God and make USA a Christian nation. That this would be contrary to separation of state and religion, seems unimportant to them. So on the one hand, they demand the government stay out of their business but on the other hand they feel obliged to take over the government by election.
    Seems to me a real disrespect, rather than love for others, as if they have some divine mandate to bring the world under submission to God. Sounds a bit like ISIS in a way? And also sounds similar in lack of respectful thought, like the dictator Fugate beating the will out of his children to serve a higher purpose. Anybody heard from his kids as adults? Did he produce drone-clones with his torture? Reading a bit of his work just makes me feel so bad for innocent children near him.

    • I don’t think an analogy to ISIS really helps shed light on the issue…for one, at the core of ISIS, are secular Baathists (ex Saddam guys) wielding fundamentalist Islam for their own ends. I would classify the ‘Religious Right’ in America those who actually believe in a theocracy in the verisimilitude of the polity structure John Calvin enacted. Fairness does demand a structural, rather than policy oriented, categorization. Opposing certain liberal policy concerns (abortion, gay marriage, etc) is conservatism; a political theory which has exists within nearly all democracies and whose progenitor, Edmund Burke, supported the American Revolution. As my old Kurdish pols lecturer used to say, ‘state and religion have never been separate.’ Only the institutions of church and state were split after the Enlightenment. Thus it is possible to pursue religiously inspired policy objectives within democratic parameters, so long as (a) you don’t favour a religious body structurally, or (b)infringe on fundamental liberties.

      So yes, they can think they have a divine mandate, but should you be opposed to Christian influenced policy that avoids contravening (a) and (b), you have to grin and bear it in a liberal democracy AND acknowledge, from a system level perspective, what they are doing is democratic. However, you would most certainly be entitled to object the dominionists and other theocrats are genuinely anti-democratic. Indeed, the Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer, an icon of the 1980’s silent majority, set himself squarely against theocratically inclined.

      I do think its important to make these distinctions and classifications clear and fair, for reasons I noted in the comments here: https://homeschoolersanonymous.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/a-creeping-sense-of-distance-nastias-story/

      – lemur

      • Thanks for this response. I have read the links. To me, a rather simple fellow who is not terribly well-read, I see the militant aspects of religion, both Christian and otherwise, as similar. Christians of the Calvinist persuasion harm their children for God just as the extreme Muslims do. These are very separate religions with their own histories but the purpose is the same: To harm children and destroy innocence for God. I do not care that the one might have a more base understanding and transgress a democratic standard. I care that they harm children and they destroy innocence. Patriarchal abusers reflect the same hatred as Muslim extremists, the beheaders, the jihadists. The perspective that supports the subjugation of women in family and society and the abuse of children (i.e. the Fugate “children have no rights” view) in my mind are every bit as destructive and dangerous to the collective as ISIS radicals. I am not sure what you mean when you refer to classifications as needing to be fair and clear. The ‘scripture’, the ‘rules’ are culturally defined, interpreted locally. ISIS is barbaric and so is Fugate. They both harm in their service of God. The finer points, the historical links really don’t make sense to me. Would you say that Fugate and his writings on controlling children are more acceptable than an ISIS document condemning infidel American life? I see them as very similar beasts, both anti-democratic, both sick and deranged, both doing irreparable harm in the world.
        Is this parallel I sense deranged?

  • I have never heard of this guy (thank God)…but I have heard of Alpha Omega. Their website is creepy in that if you want to look at samples, you have to sign in….and then they email you later to ask about what you were looking at and why you didn’t complete the purchase.

  • This guy conveniently overlooks two points:

    1. Misuse of the name of God for evil purposes (abusing children) is an atrocious sin.

    2. Jesus said to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and render to God what is God’s. In short, obey the law. (Which makes child abuse a criminal act).

    All this guy accomplishes is making non-believers more confident in their position, robbing them of the serenity of following God in their lives.

    Way to go, you sociopathic jerk….

  • Going public with my sin toward my children and a note to Dads regarding this type of stuff!

    I followed this type of teaching. I deeply regret having done so. I have lost the respect and love of those I love most, my children.

    With deep remorse, I regret that I abused my children via this type of teaching. I spanked them with my hand and with objects such as a wooded spoon, stick and part of a belt, too often and too hard. There were also too many times I inappropriately yelled at them. What I did was wrong and hurtful, not of a good father. It was beyond wrong and hurtful, it was abusive. I cannot tell you how much I wish I could take it back, but cannot. I will make no excuse for what I did. I only confess and ask my dear children for their forgiveness. Children, I have harmed and mistreated you by physically hurting you. I ask that you forgive me. It was wrong and I asked you to forgive me.

    Dads, do not ever spank (hit) your children. Ever! Regardless of what you have been taught about its ‘goodness’ for the child to become a disciplined and well-adjusted adult. It’s scarring. To the ‘Christian experts’ I read and the church I attended that said it was appropriate in certain instances, you were mistaken and have done more damage than good. But despite these teachings, I did it, not these authors. I take responsibility. I should have known better. I am an educated man.

    Most of those physically hit by a parent will tell you how damaging it was. My children would. Oh, the abused may laugh as a form of ‘reaction formation’ of how they were ‘beat’ as a child. “Let me tell you what my parents did to me”, they’d say. This is nothing but an unconscious conversion to convince the mind that is was normal, good for them or even…funny. It is none of these. Pain is pain. Instilling it willingly on another is wrong (period). Pain is powerfully reinforcing, able to teach a lesson in one trial, therefore leaving an indelible scarring of pain on a child, and most grievously, by the hands that love that child. The result to a child is shear agony and mental confusion. A child is incapable of making sense of the intermixing of love and pain from the loved object. How could a child make sense of this? She is too immature and young to make sense of it. She can only block it away. To make sense of it would take the cognitive ability to integrate abstract and dichotomous concepts into an integrated whole, as well as a heart that can simultaneously embrace the love and the pain caused by the beloved.

    I feel awful. I now see what a despicable monster I was. The pain is so deep that death could not come quickly enough to relieve me of this pain. I hate who I was, even whom I am, and will work to be the best man and father I can be. How could I do these things? How could I hurt those precious children I loved so much. My children. What in God’s name was I thinking? Why did I miss this? WHY??? Oh God, this is so painful. Why did I not see it? What an arrogant, narcissistic, blinded fool I was. God PLEASE forgive me!! Get me through this brokenness in relationship and the sickness in me. Heal my family! Heal me!

    I will not run or hide for what I have done. I do not like accepting this, but do so with remorse and courage, confessing my sin to God and my children. I will speak out against such teaching.

    To my children, I am sorry I caused you pain. I ask you to forgive me. I love you.

    With deep regret, remorse,tears and love,
    Dad!

  • Remorseful, thank-you for speaking out, for being honest. I wish more men could speak out against harming our kids.

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  • I’d like to smash Mr. Fugate repeatedly in the face.

  • Is Fugate from Florida ? I can’t remember now. It’s been a few years since I read his one book on “Biblical training because I was curious if this stuff was as bad as I’d hear-yes-it IS. This man should be investigated by his state for the things he’s urging people to do, as well as blatant breaking of the law in general. He’s menace, and should be dealt with as such.

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