A jail sentence for christening your children? That's what one Nashville, Tennessee, mother could be facing after baptizing her children without her ex-husband's knowledge or permission. The baptisms allegedly took place at Independent Presbyterian Church.
Prior to the alleged illegal baptisms, Lauren and Emmett Blake Jarrell apparently had some severe disagreements over when it was appropriate for their children to undergo the spiritual ritual. Lauren, a Presbyterian, and Emmett, a Methodist, both belong to denominations that encourage infant baptism.
However, the two disagreed about the appropriate age for doing so, with Emmett claiming it would be better to wait for a time when the children would be older and more understanding of what they were committing to. The issue was of such contention for the couple that they apparently sought counseling with a minister after getting married.
At the end of March, a Tennessee Court of Appeals said that Lauren must face a criminal contempt hearing over her violation of a court order that claims all major religious decisions surrounding the children must be made jointly. If convicted, Lauren could face a $100 fine and go to jail for up to 20 days. The Associated Press reports:
The Court of Appeals decision sides with the father, who had asked that his ex-wife be convicted of criminal contempt after discovering that she baptized the kids against his wishes.
A lower court has already found the mother in contempt of court. The appellate court decision overturned that decision and said criminal contempt proceedings are more appropriate because the mother can't undo the baptisms.
Legal experts disagree on whether the appellate court decision is treading into the forbidden territory of deciding spiritual doctrine or is just upholding the law when a parent is accused of flagrantly violating a court order.
According to court documents, the children turn five-years-old and seven-years-old in the coming weeks. A court date has not yet been set.