In this photo from the Salem News, Gladden Baptist Church Pastor Jim Privett conducts a baptism in the Sinkin Creek area on the Current River. ONSR now enforces a policy requiring churches to apply for a special use permit in order to baptize on the riverways.

Congressman Jason Smith announced Thursday the National Park Service has reversed course and will no longer require permits for baptisms on riverways in the Ozark National Forest. Since 2006, the Park Service has required permits for riverway baptisms.

The Salem News brought light to the issue with an article this week with the headline, “Want to get baptized in the Current River? Give two days notice.”

The Park Service had said special permits were required by all groups, including churches, “to make sure there is no conflict between entities.” If a group or individual was found using the access area without a permit, there would potentially be a fine levied.

“Today’s decision by the Park Service is a victory for common sense. The notion that permits would be required for baptisms on our riverways is ridiculous,” said Smith. “I appreciate Superintendent Bill Black’s quick response to my request to rescind the permit requirement and I want to continue working with him and the folks who live along the rivers to preserve our traditions and rural way of life.”

Smith was notified of the reversal in a letter from Ozark National Scenic Riverways Park Superintendent Bill Black.

“As of today the park’s policy has been clarified to state that no permit will be required for baptisms within the Riverways,” said Black’s letter to Congressman Jason Smith.

PDF: Read the letter from the National Park Service

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