Isaac Ferrell, the now-former Tattnall County High School, brought in a pastor to baptize players after an Oct. 23 practice. Video shared on the football team’s Facebook shows a pastor instructing a player to sit in a tub of water.
“I baptize you now, my brother, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” the pastor said as he dunked the player under the water.
20 players chose to get baptized, according to a Facebook post.
Despite facing backlash over the baptism, the coach was fired for reasons unrelated to the incident, Superintendent Kristen Waters. Waters said an incident after a Nov. 3 game prompted his termination, but she didn’t provide further details.
“The safety and security of our students is paramount to Tattnall County Board of Education,” Waters said in a statement. “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.”
“As to any other allegations, the District does not comment during ongoing investigations,” she added.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a state/church watchdog organization, previously wrote a letter to Waters calling the baptism a “constitutional violation.” The foundation also accused Ferrell of “abusing his position.”
“We write to request that the District investigate this situation and ensure that this school-sponsored religious coercion ends immediately,” the foundation wrote in a November 1 letter. “All coaches and staff should be instructed regarding their obligations as public school employees.”
Following Ferrell’s firing, the foundation issued another statement saying it was “glad they [district officials] are looking for a new coach who will abide by his constitutional duties.