Pastor complains after Denver jail bans baptisms
DENVER — A Pentecostal pastor is complaining after officials at the Denver County Jail banned baptism of inmates in a bathtub-sized tank, saying he was told to sprinkle converts with water instead.
Maurice Gordon says the jail previously allowed him to perform the Christian ceremony of total immersion in a portable tank, but canceled it after a baptism in March, saying he needed supervision from a jail chaplain.
Gordon said he has baptized Denver County Jail inmates in his own glass fiber tank every few weeks for 26 years, but it hasn’t been allowed for a couple of months. He believes the dry spell signals a permanent new policy, although jail officials deny it.
County Jail Division Chief Elias Diggins said the jail will continue the practice, but on its own terms.
Diggins said the jail chaplain retired a few weeks ago and hasn’t been replaced. He said a jail chaplain must serve as a liaison with outside ministers to ensure the lock-up’s internal procedures are followed. Diggins said some inmates aren’t allowed to occupy the same room for safety reasons.
“We do all we can to make sure all inmates’ religious practices are respected. Sometimes patience is needed,” he said.
Diggins said he’s still trying to arrange for a visiting or temporary jail chaplain.
According to the Denver Post, 12 inmates are waiting to be baptized.
“We have baptized over a thousand men. Once about every three weeks, we baptize men. And we just teach the basic fundamental things: Repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit,” Gordon said.
“Apparently some have complained because we, the team, baptize in the old-fashioned way, by immersion in the name of Jesus Christ,” Gordon said. “That’s what the Bible teaches. That’s the bottom line. Acts 2. These men have basic fundamental religious rights.”
Gordon said he doesn’t need a jail chaplain. His team brings the tank, fills it up and mops up afterward.
Gordon said he helped his first inmate more than 50 years ago and wants to continue. He said baptism delayed, like justice, is baptism denied.
— The Associated Press
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