It’s always something with this administration. If it isn’t the IRS targeting Tea Party groups and other conservative groups and business, it’s the National Park Service targeting churches, requiring permits 48 hours in advance for baptism in public waters. Fortunately in this case, sunlight and outrage forced the National Park Service to rescind their baptism permits:
FOX NEWS – The National Park Service began enforcing a policy recently that required churches to obtain special use permits in order to baptize in public waters. As part of the same permit process, the NPS also mandated that churches give the Park Service 48 hours advance notice of pending baptisms.
But as any Baptist or Pentecostal in good standing knows – that’s a problem.
“If the Holy Spirit is working on Sunday morning, you’re going to baptize Sunday afternoon,” Dennis Purcell told The Salem News. “You may not know ahead of time.”
Many Christians believe that the Bible commands new followers of Christ to be baptized immediately after their conversion. It’s a public expression and celebration of their new-found faith in Christ.
The National Park Service told local churches the permits were needed to “maintain park natural/cultural resources and quality visitor experiences, specific terms and conditions have been established.”
The feds also closed vehicle access to a sandbar along a popular creek in the Ozark Mountains, meaning churches could no longer drive their elderly members to the outdoor baptisms. And to make sure the Baptists behaved, they placed large boulders in the area to block car traffic.
“Like the Baptists and Pentecostals are going to harm natural resources and adversely affect quality visitor experiences by occasionally baptizing new converts?” asked local resident Lewis Leonard. “I can think of a whole lot more activities along the river ways that are not conducive to maintain the natural resources.”
Rep. Jason Smith fired off a letter to the feds on Aug. 21 demanding answers.
“I am very troubled by any federal rule that requires churches to apply for a permit for the purpose of baptism, especially when these traditional activities have been done in the rivers and streams of this nation since its founding,” the congressman wrote.
He pointed out the National Park Service does not require a 48-hour notification from fisherman or swimmers – so why churches?
“One would hope that the answer is not ‘because the National Park Service wants to limit the number of baptisms performed on the river.”
The Park Service responded within 24 hours. They said the reason they needed two days notice is to “give the park staff adequate time to prepare the permit.”
But based on local outrage – and Rep. Smith’s promise to bring the matter before Congress, the Park Service had a change of heart.
“As of today, the park’s policy has been clarified to state that no permit will be required for baptisms within the Riverways,” Supt. William Black wrote in a letter to the congressman. “I can assure you the National Park Service has no intention of limiting the number of baptisms performed within the park.”
Rep. Smith called the decision a “victory for common sense.”
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