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Georgia high school football coach fired after hosting on-campus baptism event

Football field
Football field | Unsplash/Andrew McElroy

A high school football coach in Georgia has been fired after he oversaw an event on public school property last month in which a pastor baptized 20 members of the team.

Tattnall County High School Coach Isaac Ferrell was dismissed as the team's coach, with school district officials citing an unspecified "incident" that occurred earlier this month.

"The safety and security of our students is paramount to Tattnall County Board of Education," stated Tattnall County School District Superintendent Kristen Waters, according to WSAV.

"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."

The superintendent stated that regarding "any other allegations, the District does not comment during ongoing investigations."

Ferrell is still a teacher with the school district, WSAV reports.

Ferrell garnered controversy in October when he oversaw an event behind the high school's football field in which Pastor Gary Few baptized 20 student-athletes.

In response to learning of the ceremony from a resident, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which advocates for a strict separation of church and state, sent a Nov. 1 complaint letter to the school district.

FFRF Staff Attorney Christopher Line wrote the superintendent, asking "that the District investigate this situation and ensure that this school-sponsored religious coercion ends immediately."

"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," wrote Line.

"It is illegal for public school athletic coaches to invite or instruct others, such as pastors, to lead their team in prayer or other religious activities, including proselytizing and baptisms." 

Some supported the ceremony, including local resident Latifa Johnson, whose son, a sophomore at the high school, was one of the players who was baptized at the event.

"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 told WSAV.

"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."

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