A movement promoting de-baptism is growing in France, challenging the authority of the Catholic Church and presenting quandaries for historians who use baptismal records as sources.
A French man named René LeBouvier has sued the Catholic Church in order to have his name stricken from the baptismal register of the church where he was baptized as an infant. He has won a court ruling based on French human rights law, but the Catholic Church has appealed to a higher court.
NPR reports on the case. The article explains the religious and political issues involved in the case, but does not discuss the historical implications. Many historians use baptismal records as key sources for the social history of communities. If states can force churches to alter their baptismal records, the historical value of these documents may be compromised.
NIU students in HIST 414 European Wars of Religion and HIST 640 Religious Violence in Comparative Perspective will be interested in this story after reading about the baptism controversies of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.