Baker City parents might have found something they didn’t expect, or approve of, when they were sorting through their kids’ candy bags after strolling the downtown sidewalks on Halloween.

(The sorting being done purely for protective purposes, of course, and not to indulge the parental sweet tooth.)

The Blue Mountain Baptist Church in Baker City handed out plastic bags that contained candy as well as a tract dealing with, among other religious topics, the Ten Commandments.

We don’t object per se to a church distributing tracts on Halloween. It was, after all, on a public sidewalk. The Blue Mountain Baptist Church set up a table on Main Street that clearly identified the church, so parents who didn’t want their kids subjected to proselytizing, even of the indirect variety, presumably could have intervened. That said, it’s a hectic situation, and there is a certain element of subterfuge in spreading a message during an event for which candy, not tracts, is the common medium.

Nor did we find anything particularly offensive about much of the tract’s content. Its format is similar to a comic strip or a section in Highlights magazine. It lists the Ten Commandments, which we suspect most parents would agree make for a pretty fair list of things they would strive to ensure their kids avoid doing.

But there is one glaring exception, and it’s on the back page of the foldout tract.

This is how it reads: “The Ten Commandments show us how bad we are, and how we need to be clean before the day of judgement. On that day God will punish everyone who has broken the Ten Commandments. They’ll be sent to a terrible place called ‘Hell.’ ”

This is not a message that kids should be exposed to while sifting through their Snickers bars and their lollipops — particularly young children who are unlikely to comprehend that statement with any level of context. Other parts of the tract do supply some of that context, but we could well imagine kids, who are nothing if not literal, reading the second sentence in the previous paragraph and assuming that they’re destined for hell because they talked back to mom or dad or took a sibling’s toy without permission.

We’re confident that the vast majority of parents who choose to broach with their children the subject of heaven and hell would prefer to either do so themselves, or take their children to church.

Churches that choose to include religious messages during the downtown trick-or-treat event should either make tracts available separately from the candy, or consider whether the tracts are appropriate for the audience.

From the Baker City Herald editorial board. The board consists of publisher Kari Borgen, editor Jayson Jacoby and reporter Chris Collins.