Sheriff’s Office Under Fire for 300 Baptisms Behind Bars

A sheriff’s department in Indiana is upsetting out-of-town atheists who want them to stop a faith-based program helping inmates turn their lives around.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) complained in a Jan. 13 letter after former Decatur County Sheriff David Durant shared a positive end-of-the-year update on inmates getting baptized and giving their lives to Jesus Christ while behind bars.

“What a great way to celebrate Christmas and a New Year!” Durant, who ended his four-year term as sheriff on Jan. 1, wrote. “DCDC Chaplain Dave Burnett along with REC members baptized nearly 40 men and women after a personal, public profession of Jesus Christ in their lives.”

He added, “Over the past four years, nearly 300 men and women have given their life to Jesus Christ while incarcerated at the Decatur County Detention Center. All glory to GOD!”

Should the sheriff's department stop the faith-based program to appease the atheists?

The images of the Decatur County Jail inmates in orange suits being submerged in the makeshift baptismal angered FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor.

“This is one of the more serious and offensive First Amendment violations we have encountered in a sheriff’s department,” said Gaylor. “The proselytization needs to stop.”

The faith-based rehabilitation program is called “Residents Encounter Christ,” which reportedly has a large number of successful testimonies in the Hoosier State.

FFRF first contacted the sheriff’s office on July 14, 2022 for “promoting Christianity and coercing prisoners into participating in religious exercises.”

The atheist group claims the sheriff’s office engaged in multiple constitutional violations.

“We write to ensure that the Decatur County Sheriff’s Department ceases its promotion of, and
official affiliation with, Christianity on its official social media pages and through its religious
events, programs, and activities in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” FFRF attorney Christopher Line wrote.


Decatur County Sheriff Bill Meyerrose previously told the Christian Post he is familiar with the baptisms at the jail before he took office but had not seen the FFRF complaint letters.

Caleb Parke is the SMG managing editor. Follow him on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and connect with him at calebparke.com.

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