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Smith Report 9.5.2013

A few weeks ago my office in Rolla received a phone call from church members who expressed concern about the Park Service requiring permits for Baptisms in the rivers of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Yes, you read that correctly, the Park Service was actually requiring churches and pastors to get a permit in order to perform Baptisms.

After learning of this ridiculous rule, I immediately contacted Bill Black, the Superintendent of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. In a letter, I expressed my serious concerns about the permit requirement and need for a 48-hour notice. I told Superintendent Black that the permit requirement would hurt church ceremonies that have happened in our region for generations and the condition also would infringe upon the religious liberties of the families living in the Eighth District.

It is important to note, permits are not required to swim in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. People are allowed to float the rivers and even fish in the rivers without having a special use permit. My question to Superintendent Black was why were Baptisms singled out from other river activities? I also asked that the permit requirement for Baptisms be immediately rescinded, and promised to pursue a legislative solution if the permit requirement was not reconsidered.

Less than 24 hours after receiving my letter and request to end the permit requirements for Baptisms, Superintendent Black reversed course and announced that he would no longer require permits for Baptism ceremonies. Superintendent Black’s decision was a huge victory for common sense and religious liberty. I appreciate Superintendent Black’s quick response to my request to rescind the permit requirement and I want to continue working with him and the families who live along the rivers to preserve our traditions, rural way of life and personal liberties.

Sadly, the permitting requirement for Baptisms is just the latest example of officials in Washington trying to regulate every aspect of our lives here in Missouri. Last year Washington tried to regulate dust and children working on their family farms.  While it seems hard to believe that bureaucrats would spend time writing such senseless regulations, that is exactly what is happening. As your voice in Congress, I will continue fighting burdensome regulations that hurt our rural way of life and limit our freedoms.