After receiving backlash for requesting permits for baptisms at a Missouri park, the National Park Service is denying allegations of discrimination against Christians, according to the Christian Post.
Mike Litterst, spokesman for the National Park Service, insisted on clarifying the situation in an email to the Christian Post one week ago.
“It has never been the intention of the National Park Service to limit the number of baptisms performed at Ozark National Scenic Riverways,” he said.
The NPS’ statement comes after a complaint from Missouri Congressman Jason Smith who questioned the requirement of baptisms needing permits at Ozark National Scenic Riverways, pointing out that other activities such as fishing and swimming do not require the same permits.
“I am very troubled by any federal rule that requires churches to apply for a permit for the purpose of baptism,” Smith said, “especially when these traditional activities have been done in the rivers and streams of this nation since its founding.”
Smith contacted Bill Black, superintendent of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, who responded quickly and reversed the policy.
“As of today the park’s policy has been clarified to state that no permit will be required for baptisms within the Riverways,” Black wrote.
Congressman Smith called the decision a “victory for common sense.” He also stated that “the notion that permits would be required for baptisms on our riverways is ridiculous.”
The National Park Service had begun enforcing the policy that requires churches to obtain special use permits in order to baptize in public water. It also required churches give the NPS a 48-hour advance notice of pending baptisms.
However, church member Dennis Purcell found this problematic.
“If the Holy Spirit is working on Sunday morning, you’re going to baptize Sunday afternoon” Purcell told Salem News. “You may not know ahead of time.”
This is not the only case of anti-Christian allegations against parks. In Olympia, Wash., one church was recently denied a permit to hold a baptism at a public park, after an attorney general said baptisms were a violation of the state constitution, according to the Christian Post.
Sources: The Christian Post, Salem News Online