Shall we gather at the river? Not in Virginia!

A Baptist church in Fredricksburg, VA, continued the time-honored practice of holding a public baptism in the Rappahannock River at Falmouth Waterfront Park. After the new believers were well and truly dunked in the river, pastor Todd Pyle was pulled aside:

As anyone knows, I’m no fan of the Baptists, but I’m even less of a fan of officious government and religious discrimination. I can see the prohibition on baptisms for safety reasons, but to have a specific ban on religious activity is nonsense. The First Amendment was designed to keep the spheres of religion and government separate, not to to intrude on the free exercise of relgioon in the public sphere.

Public parks are meant to be enjoyed by everyone, even a pack of foot-washing Baptists. Allowing religious rites in a public space is NOT the same thing as endorsement of them by the state.

Besides, I really don’t want to give the Religious Right one iota of justification for their pathetic whines that they’re being persecuted.

So you’d be okay with Fred’s Church of the Gospel of Christ funding and erecting a monument outside your local courthouse inscribed with the biblical proscriptions of sodomy? Any religious use of public property is inappropriate. Especially since Fred’s Church of the Gospel of Christ is a tax-exempt organization. As such, and beyond my first amendment objections, if they ain’t sharing in the costs, they shouldn’t be enjoying the benefits. They can head upstream to some private property owner and ask for permission to use his land. Fuck 'em.

Why am I picturing one of these dressed as Jesus?

I agree with Uncle Beer, and would add that this sort of problem is intrinsic to the notion of so-called public property. Its owner is government.

*"But it was that public declaration that Pastor Todd Pyle felt was important.

“Baptism, originally, was a public display of what took place inside–that we’re not ashamed of being a Christian,” Pyle said.

He finds it troublesome that baptisms have moved inside churches and away from view.

“Christianity is isolated indoors so much that people are confused about what it is*, so we just wanted to bring it outdoors,” he said after coming back to the shore."*
Apparently what’s most important about this ceremony was doing it in public. This isn’t an issue of religious freedom, but of using public property for purposes of proselytizing.


Except that I’d rather they went downstream.

Four drownings during baptism ceremonies? Did someone forget the resurrection part?

*Christianity…the forgotten religion. :rolleyes:

I believe the USSC disagrees with you. It is just as forbidden to exclude solely based on religon as it is to require religion. See the cases regarding bible study groups refused permission to meet on school property even though many secular groups were allowed to meet (Wallace v. Jaffree is considered one of the landmark ones if I’m not mistaken).

The article didn’t say that the drownings were during baptism ceremonies. It is almost impossible to drown with your nose pinched shut and a hand clamped over your mouth.

That’s not what’s going on here, however. We aren’t talking about adding a permanent structure to the public space, we talking about a group of private citizens using public space. To limit that use based solely on the idea that the group is religious seems to violate the establishment clause to me. All limits on public space must not be different for people of differing religions, so if I can walk out in the river, and dunk my wife cause it’s fun, then the Baptists should be allowed to walk out into the river and dunk each other because it’s sacred.

A compelling argument, Redwing. You’ve changed my mind.

Based on the article I don’t think you’d be allowed to dunk your wife either. The powers that be don’t want frolickers or Baptists washing away in the current and lawsuits ensuing.
You misogynist.

Don’t be so literal, Liberal.

I got nothin’, except to say that gobear’s thread title rocks. (Although now I’ve got that tune in my head!)

How is the problem intrinsic to public or government owned property? How does the government differ from private owners in terms of regulating or controlling the use of that propert?

The US Supreme Court respectfully disagrees.

Allowing public dunkings isn’t any different than after-school bible clubs. As others have noted, we aren’t talking about erecting permanent structures on public land; we’re talking about individual expressions of faith. And for those who care about the whole first amendment – i.e., the free speech clauses as well as the religion clauses – that makes all the difference.

With respect, dear Unk, you are wrong. In CAPITOL SQUARE REVIEW AND ADVISORY BOARD et al. v. PINETTE et al. (1995), the Supremes held that a private religious observance in a public space is Constitutionally protected.

On second thought, I should have titled this thread, “Well, I’ll be a son of a bitch. Delmar’s been saved!”

All my sins been warshed away!

Put me down as another one who will agree with a general prohibition of entering the river if there is a credible threat to public safety, but doesn’t like the attempt to make a bad First Amendment justification.

But it’s a darn fine way to suffocate.

If the park wants to say “nobody in the water”, that’s their business.

They don’t have to make an exception for religious services; that’s what Smith v. Employment Division was all about.

However, I agree that they cannot banish all religious observances from the park, although they can banish those which otherwise violate their neutral and generally applicable rules, as long as those rules were not crafted with the intention to specifically hamper religious exercise.

How about this for a replacement, choie? Amazing Grace to the theme music from Gilligan’s Island :stuck_out_tongue: