Churches in Soddy-Daisy that plan to perform baptisms at public boat ramps will now have to first contact City Hall. That was the decision of the Soddy-Daisy Commission during its meeting this week.
The unanimous decision was made following a report by Commissioner Geno Shipley, who said that on the Fourth of July, a local church held baptism services at a public boat ramp for about 40 people. And while the services were taking place, an individual with a boat to launch became impatient and went ahead and put it in the water.
“I think it’s real rude to do something like that,” Commissioner Shipley said.
“I don’t know if it’s legal or illegal,” but maybe there should be a sign at public boat docks stating that boaters should respect a baptism service and not launch boats until the service is over, he said.
City Attorney Sam Elliott noted that the boat ramp is one of only a few in the area for public use and that the law stipulates that “you can’t hinder religion, but you can’t advance it either.”
He then suggested that religious groups notify City Hall concerning how many people will be baptized and how long it will take. “If it’s a two-hour baptizing, then that really hinders” use of the boat ramp, he said, adding that a church planning a baptism service longer than 30 minutes should “pick an alternative time” when boaters are less likely to be there.
City Attorney Elliott noted that he was just using “common sense” in his recommendation because there are no court cases dealing with that particular subject.
Mayor Bob Privett asked if anyone called the Soddy-Daisy Police Department, and Commissioner Shipley said, yes, and that the police arrived and talked to the driver of the boat, but did not give him a citation because it did not seem to be the right thing to do.
Mayor Privett replied, “That was a good judgment call.”
During a brief interview following the meeting, Mayor Privett said usually “99 percent” of the people who encounter a baptism service will wait until it is over, but that in this case “one person, whoever that person was, chose to push the issue of the law ….
“When we get to a day and time that a person can’t respect another person’s religious activity of baptizing, we’re in trouble.”
In other business, the commission unanimously approved a zoning ordinance relating to the location of used mobile homes.
City Attorney Elliott said that in the past, the city has set age limits on mobile homes and that when one “transcends the age limit but is still a good looking mobile home and would be appropriate for the neighborhood, then we’ll go a little bit over that age limit.”
He noted that city established an ordinance five or six years ago that set a six-year deadline for mobile home age, but that Commissioner Shipley had pointed out during the commission’s June meeting that “restrictions have changed such that it might be advisable to move back that deadline” to 10 years.
Under the new ordinance, he explained, “we could issue a waiver if a mobile home is in appropriate condition” and was made 10 years earlier.
Also, he noted, the new ordinance pertains only to a mobile home that is going to be someone’s personal home and is located on their land. The city, he said, will not allow someone to use the ordinance to bring in a mobile home that would create a “slum rental situation.”
Mayor Privett added that if any citizen has a mobile home request rejected by the commission, he has 10 days to appeal that decision.