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June 07, 2004

Christians Banned From Performing Baptisms in Public Park Because It "Might Offend" Others

BlatherReview has the link, extensive quotes, and rebuttal. This is just a tease:

RICHMOND, Virginia (AP) -- The Rev. Todd Pyle thought it was the perfect spot to baptize 12 new members of his church. The river was calm and shallow, and there was a shaded area offshore for people to stand.

...

But officials at the Falmouth Waterfront Park, a public park just outside Fredericksburg, weren't pleased. They tried to break up the ceremony, claiming it might be offensive to nearby swimmers or other people using the park. Pyle was able to finish the baptism, but then he was asked to leave.

...

The incident has outraged free-speech advocates.

"These people are being discriminated against because of the content of their speech," said the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, who heads the Christian Defense Coalition. "It's one of the most egregious violations of the First Amendment I have ever seen."

Mahoney's group has threatened to file a lawsuit if the park refuses to allow future gatherings by religious groups, something for which the park admits it has no written policy.

...

"We don't want to tread on anybody's First Amendment or constitutional rights," said Brian Robinson, director of the Fredericksburg-Stafford Park Authority. "What we try to discourage is anything not formally permitted that just sort of occurs spontaneously."

Indeed. I'm sure if an anti-war protest just "occurred spontaneously," you'd be just as quick to deny them their free speech rights on the rather nebulous standard of "offending others."


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posted by Ace at 05:10 AM

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