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Ask the Patriarch 265
An Unwanted Baptism

from: Paula B.

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A question submitted via unbaptism.org, our baptism reversal affiliate.

I have a friend that a issue with an ex taking their child and having the child baptized without his consent. The father has sole custody of the child but the mother did this while she had the child for a visit.

Is the baptism legal even though it was done with out the consent of the sole provider and he had no idea it was happening until after it was done? If legal, then can the baptism be undone as he did not consent to this?

The Patriarch replies:


In general, the only religious ceremony which has legal significance in most of the western world today is the marriage ceremony - a ceremony in which both parties openly assent to the undertaking.

As for baptism, it has no official legal standing. And other than the churches which practice adult baptism, it is a ceremony in which the object of baptism's consent is not required. And the one being baptised may be a child, an adult, or even deceased. Various Christian denominations have no scruples about claiming people into their ranks without any consent at all.

We are all aware of infant baptism. And we are mostly aware of the silly practice of the LDS church in baptising the dead. Less well known is that the Catholic Church authorizes any of its members to baptise anyone they see fit. The late William F Buckley was notorious for baptising his friends if he felt they needed it.

All without consent. And baptism without consent is a meaningless and empty ceremony. It has no legal significance. It binds the child to nothing.

I deliberately do not provide a process on unbaptism.org for parents to reverse their children's baptism, no matter how unwanted. I firmly believe that decisions about a spiritual path should be made personally.

In the case you bring up, I suggest it is the responsibility of the father to bring up his child in such a way that the child will be capable of making an informed decision on rejecting the baptism. He now knows that it is quite probable that his ex-wife will be endeavouring to provide the child with religious instruction. It is his responsibility to ensure that the child has the tools to critically assess religion. That way, the child can decide when old enough. In the long run, that should be far more satisfying.


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