Parents livid after son baptised in paddling pool without permission

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A 13-year-old boy was baptised without his parents’ consent having been lured by burgers and lollies, it has been claimed.

Mother Jesse Brown and her partner Luke said they were “shocked and upset” when their son came home saying he has been baptised in a paddling pool.

Ms Brown said: “He walked in the door, and I said, ‘alright son’, and he said, ‘I just got baptised’, and I was like – what? I couldn’t believe it.”

The parents said they were livid because they had not been asked for their permission.

Ms Brown continued: “I asked my son if he knew what baptism was, and he didn’t have a clue. His mates also did it. They’d had these huge burgers that they loved… they were just getting amongst it like kids do.

“There was no mention in the advertising for the event that there was baptism involved. It was like it was targetted at kids with the food and activities.

“I was so mad and upset I was nearly crying. It was in an inflatable pool, and they put his head forward which I’d never seen before. I emailed them and asked them to take it down.”

The event took place in the Bay of Plenty on the northern coast of New Zealand. It was organised by a religious organisation called The Freedom Centre.

They promised free food for all, including burgers and lollies, face-painting and activities.

It was reported that 1500 people from the local area attended. The team leaders at the church performed 60 baptisms in a paddling pool.

Lead pastor Grace Guneyi said that her organisation has recieved a complaint from the boy’s parents. She has phoned them to apologise.

She said: “This boy was in the area around the pool waiting to be baptised. There were so many people it got a bit chaotic. It was a genuine mistake that his parents’ consent was not sought.”

Guneyi added that people were not lured by free burgers and were baptised at their own free will.

She continued: “The food was put on as a gesture of pure love for the community. There was no coercion. You didn’t have to get baptised if you had a burger.”

But Ms Brown said the church should have checked, adding: “She phoned to apologise but then asked me not to speak to the media as they had their reputation to think of.

“I felt like she cared more about that than actually saying sorry. She also said that he looked older, which is not the point, they should be checking. I was so upset I just put the phone down.

“My son is not old enough to make an informed decision. He’s never mentioned beliefs or religion before or even been inside a church. He’s a young boy – he doesn’t need to repent or cleanse himself of sin. If later it was something he wanted to do when he’s older, we would support him to learn about it. It upsets me that it was just done quickly like this, with no checking, and in a park, it’s just wrong.

“It’s like burgers for baptism. Free burgers were used to trap people, and my concern is that vulnerable people could be drawn in, without really understanding. It’s similar to how gangs recruit people. I had pop-up adverts all week for it, and it wasn’t clear that it was a church event, even to me as an adult.”

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