You might think that people would be happy to find out that high schoolers found God and were baptized, as opposed to being up to whatever antics high schoolers are normally up to. While that seems to be a reasonable expectation, it proved untrue at Georgia’s Tattnall County High School, where a coach who baptized nearly two dozen of his football players was fired for doing so.
That would be Tattnall County High School coach Isaac Ferrell, who had local pastor Gary Few baptize the players on Oct. 23. A video of the incident emerged and the anti-religious Freedom From Religion Foundation, which claimed to be outraged that the players had been baptized on school grounds.
FRFF, in an article on its website, described the baptism and then enumerated its demands, saying, “FFRF is requesting that the Tattnall County School District investigate the matter and take immediate action to protect its students. The team’s coaches must be directed to cease allowing a pastor to proselytize and baptize student athletes. District coaches must be reminded that they must not push their personal religious beliefs onto students while acting in their official capacity, nor enlist an outside adult to do the same.”
In a letter, FRFF attorney Chris Line wrote, “We write to request that the District investigate this situation and ensure that this school-sponsored religious coercion ends immediately.” Line continued, “All coaches and staff should be instructed regarding their obligations as public school employees.”
Line then claimed that Coach Ferrell couldn’t even preach to students, saying, “The district must refrain from infusing its football program with religion, and Coach Ferrell cannot be allowed to preach to student-athletes or allow a local pastor to preach to and baptize students.”
Here’s the video of the baptism event that sparked such strong criticism:
The school soon got rid of Coach Ferrell as a coach, though he was allowed to retain his teaching position and the school superintendent claimed that his termination as a coach stemmed from an incident after an early-November football game, not the baptism event.
TCSD Superintendent Kristen Waters, speaking to News 3, said, “The safety and security of our students is paramount to Tattnall County Board of Education. Based on the outcome of an investigation into an incident that occurred Friday night, November 3rd while traveling after the football game, the District decided that it would seek a Head football coach that aligned with the best interests of the students of Tattnall County for the 2024-2025 school year. As to any other allegations, the District does not comment during ongoing investigations.”
Some parents stuck up for Coach Ferrell and the baptisms, however. Latifa Johnson, whose son is a sophomore on the football team, noted that she was proud of her son for choosing, on his own volition, to be baptized. She said, “I was extremely proud of him because he made the decision on his own. I didn’t have to hold his hand, and he did it because he wanted to do it.”
Johnson continued, “It was so sweet because you see the boys and they looked like they wanted it. You know, like everyone looked excited, from the ones I was able to see. So was cheering thank you, God. Yes, yes, yes. I was all for it.”
Johnson then added that she thinks the criticism of Coach Ferrell for the baptism is absurd because of how teaching players Christian values helps the community, saying, “What about the ones who do believe? Why should they miss out on a spiritual leader because someone doesn’t agree? It takes a village to raise children.”
Featured image credit: screengrab from the embedded video