A Georgia high school has fired its head football coach almost three weeks after he sanctioned a Christian baptism for some of the team players following practice, WSAV reported. Isaac Ferrell is said to have allowed a local pastor to baptize 20 players on his Tattnall County High School (TCHS) football team during an October 23 ceremony.
Despite being terminated, Ferrell remains an employed teacher with the Tattnall County School District (TCSD). The baptism ceremony, albeit commended by a section of people, was condemned by the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), claiming in an article that what took place was a violation of the First Amendment as student-athletes have the “right to be free from religious indoctrination when participating in their public school’s athletics program.”
“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,” the organization added.
And though the organization also called for an investigation into the matter, Tattnall County School District Superintendent Kristen Waters in a statement to WSAV said Ferrell’s termination stemmed from an unrelated incident.
“The safety and security of our students is paramount to Tattnall County Board of Education,” Waters said. “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.”
Ferrell reportedly having the pastor baptize his players on October 23 was welcomed by some parents despite the condemnation by FFRF. “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,” Latifa Johnson, a parent whose son was baptized, said.
Johnson also said she got to know about the ceremony after the football team shared a post on Facebook. “It was so sweet because you see the boys and they looked like they wanted it,” Johnson said. “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 also said Ferrell’s termination had negatively impacted her and her son, adding that he was a good role model because of his faith, WSAV reported. “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,” said Johnson.
But an attorney for FFRF, Chris Line, said in a statement that they “are glad they are looking for a new coach who will abide by his constitutional duties.”