Atheists Demand County Jail Stop Hosting Baptisms for Inmates

A Wisconsin-based atheist group is demanding that an Indiana sheriff stop holding Christian events for inmates incarcerated in the county jail.  Click here to join Todd’s private Facebook page for conservatives.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation were reportedly triggered by a 2019 event where dozens of inmates were baptized at the Decatur County Detention Center.

The local fire department was credited with filling the makeshift baptismal pool.

Should prisons have chaplains?

“At the men’s event, 34 inmates were baptized and at the women’s event, every female inmate volunteered to attend this Christ-centered weekend with 21 baptism,” the horrified atheists noted in a press statement.

Well, praise the Lord!

A number of local churches were involved in the “Residents Encounter Christ” event which included opportunities for inmates to profess or rededicate their lives to Christ.

Instead of celebrating lives changed by God’s great grace, the out-of-town atheists blew a gasket.

“The Decatur County Sheriff’s Department must cease so blatantly endorsing and promoting Christianity,” the FFRF demanded.

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“This is an appalling misuse of official resources,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The Decatur County Sheriff’s Department is acting like an arm of the church, instead of an arm of secular law. It must immediately cease promoting religion and baptizing and proselytizing its inmates.”

The angry atheists were also triggered by the department’s Facebook page.

“On April 9, 2020, the Sheriff’s Department posted a lengthy Easter message from the Department’s chaplain, which included seven different Bible verses and the image of a Latin cross,” attorney Chris Line wrote in a letter to Sheriff Dave Durant. “Additionally, on the official Decatur County Sheriff’s Department’s website, your description specifically highlights that you give ‘the credit first to God’ before giving credit to your hardworking staff and members of the Decatur County community.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation strongly hinted that if the baptisms and religious gatherings did not end, they would file a lawsuit.

They accused the sheriff of coercing inmates and advancing Christianity — violations of the Establishment Clause.

But religious liberty experts say the sheriff is well within his rights to partner with religious groups to host events inside the prison.

“There is a long, well-established history of clergy ministering to inmates,” First Liberty Institute attorney Ryan Gardner wrote in a letter to the sheriff. “The practice of clergy visiting prisons to minister to inmates and provide spiritual and emotional support predates the founding and can be traced all the way back to the first century.”

First Liberty offered to help the sheriff’s department should the atheists file a lawsuit.

They accused the FFRF of “inexplicably” omitting key Supreme Court precedent on the issue as well as distorting the Establishment Clause.

First Liberty cited several Supreme Court rulings that affirmed the constitutionality of prison chaplains and religious gatherings.

“As long as the (sheriff’s department) maintains a ‘policy of nondiscrimination’ that welcomes people of all faiths, it does not run afoul of the Establishment Clause,” Gardner wrote.