A former Christian is bidding to be the first in the country to have his baptism cancelled.
In a landmark case, Dr John Hunt wants the record of his baptism at the parish church of St Jude and St Aidan in Thornton Heath expunged.
The 56-year-old said at just five months old he was too young to decide if he wanted to be baptised, and chose to stop going to Sunday school when he was about 11 years old.
Now he wants out.
He said: “It was a long time ago but I think it struck me there was a lot of hypocrisy around.
“Religion is a familiar part of our culture and tradition. I’m happy for children to be taught about religion and understand how they operate but I am totally against the indoctrination of children in any religion.”
But the former software engineer, who has re-trained to be a nurse, has a battle on his hands as the church is standing firm and refusing to cancel the record of the ceremony.
In a letter to Dr Hunt, Andrew Lane, from the Southwark Diocese, wrote: “Because the promises made by your parents and godparents on your behalf at your baptism were to God and not to the Church, membership of the Church effectively lapses by non-attendence.
"The fact your baptism took place is a matter of public record. The records cannot be amended retrospectively.”
In an attempt to highlight the problem, Dr Hunt appeared in a BBC documentary about the issue, along with Terry Sanderson from the National Secular Society (NSS), and read out a certificate of debaptism.
The NSS wants the church to allow the formal cancelling of baptisms, until such a time they have a debaptism certificate that people can download from its website.
Mr Sanderson said: “It is more of a symbolic gesture. John has been very persistent with his campaign.
“Most people are voting with their feet, the Church of England and the Catholic Church are both suffering a decline in numbers – that is the biggest form of debaptism.”
The Bishop of Croydon, the Right Reverend Nick Baines, told the BBC: “Whether we agree whether it should have happened or not is a different matter. But it’s a bit like trying to expunge Trotsky from the photos. Mr Hunt was baptised and that is a matter of public record.”
The church suggested Dr Hunt take out an advertisement renouncing his baptism in the London Gazette, a public record which has been going since the 17th century. It would then be able to include this with his baptism record.
Dr Hunt said: “It is ironic that, to revoke the original abuse, I have undergone a second church-prescribed ritual – albeit without any officiating priest – placing the announcement in the London Gazette.”
However, he has been unable to present the advert to anyone at the church. He said: “I asked if I could hand over the advertisement to the Bishop of Croydon. I was told he preferred not to meet me at the moment.”