As any good church-going Baptist or Pentecostal will tell you, when The Holy Ghost touches one’s soul, it’s off to the river we go. But The Third Person of the Blessed Trinity has never had to deal with the Obama Administration.
Until very recently, the administration’s Ozark National Scenic Riverways National Park in southern Missouri required Christian churches to obtain permits for any and all Baptisms performed within the confines of the park, as reported by Todd Starnes of Fox News on Aug. 30, 2013.
In what many consider adding insult to injury, the National Park Service (NPS) demanded 48 hours advance notification, which happens to be quite the dilemma for certain Christian denominations such as the Baptists and Pentecostals, who adhere to the theological belief that full-body immersion Baptism take place immediately upon one’s conversion to Jesus Christ.
According to Starnes, the NPS notified local churches in the Ozarks Riverways Park area that permits were required not to quash any overt displays of Christianity, but needed to “maintain park natural/cultural resources and quality visitor experiences, specific terms and conditions have been established.”
When All Else Fails, Put Boulders in the Road…
To ensure vehicular traffic to a popular creek’s sandbar that many local churches favored using for Baptizing elderly members who had trouble tromping through the woods, officials placed large boulders on the road to block traffic. Eventually the public outcry caught the attention of the area’s Republican representative to the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Jason T. Smith, who made clear his concerns to the NPS:
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.
Not quite done yet, the Show Me Stater pointed out to the NPS that a 48 hour notification isn’t required 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,” Smith asked in his letter.
In a surprisingly quick response, the NPS responded to Smith’s letter within 24 hours. They said the reason they needed the 48 hour notification was required to “give the park staff adequate time to prepare the permit.”
Not exactly the answer he was looking for, Smith made sure the NPS was aware that he would be bringing the policy before Congress.
Amazingly enough, Superintendent William “Bill” Black of the Ozark Riverways Park personally contacted Rep. Smith:
As of today, the park’s policy has been clarified to state that no permit will be required for baptisms within the Riverways.
I can assure you the National Park Service has no intention of limiting the number of [B]aptisms performed within the park.
According to the National Park Service’s official website, when Black was appointed as superintendent of the Ozark Riverways Park, Midwest Regional Director Mike Reynolds sung the praises of his underling, noting his ability to “build lasting relationships and partnerships” with local communities and organizations:
The depth and breadth of Bill’s experience both within and outside the National Park Service, coupled with his intuitive understanding of building lasting relationships and partnerships with local, regional, and national communities, organizations, and groups, makes him an ideal choice to lead Ozark National Scenic Riverways.
Not the First Time…
As Fox News reported, this isn’t exactly the first time government officials have tried to discourage public Baptisms. In Olympia, Wash., a church was denied a permit to hold a baptism at Heritage Park a few weeks ago. Their request was rejected because the attorney general said the religious sacrament was a violation of the state constitution. In 2011, a church’s beach baptism was shut down by lifeguards in Miami.
Some Animals Are More Equal than Others…
As other examples of what many on the right have dubbed a liberal war on Christianity, Starnes notes that taxpayer dollars have funded more than a few expenditures have been earmarked to facilitate Muslim religious norms:
- Universities across the nation are spending thousands of dollars to install foot baths so Muslim students can wash their feet before their five-times-a-day prayers.
- The New York Times reported that the University of Michigan-Dearborn spent $25,000 to install the foot-washing stations in restrooms. The university defended the expenditure, claiming it was for health and safety measures, not religion.
- A number of airports have spent public tax dollars to provide foot-washing basins for Muslim taxi drivers.
- One Arizona airport provided prayer rugs.
- San Francisco International Airport renovated a building to create a house of worship for Muslim workers. Airport officials declined to reveal how much tax money was spent, but a spokesman told the San Francisco Chronicle they just wanted to maintain “a good relationship with ground transportation providers.”