November 18, 2023

Georgia high school football coach fired after he held a baptism for 20 players

The head coach at Tattnall County High School (TCHS) in Georgia, Isaac Ferrell, has been fired from his position, making nationwide headlines.

The firing came roughly three weeks after he staged a Christian baptism for some of his players following practice, as News 3 reported.

The contentious event took place on Oct. 23 following practice, when a pastor, Gary Few, came to practice and baptized twenty players at the request of Ferrell, who is still employed as a teacher in the Tattnall County School District (TCSD).

Reactions to the Baptisms

One of the athletes baptized that day was the sophomore son of Latifa Johnson.

“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 News 3.

The happy mother says she found out the good news via a Facebook post from the football team.

“It was so sweet because you see the boys and they looked like they wanted it,” said Johnson, “You know, like everyone looked excited, from the ones I was able to see. So was [I] cheering thank you, God. Yes, yes, yes. I was all for it.”

Not everyone approves of the ritual, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) wrote a letter condemning it as unconstitutional.

The letter claims to be from a “state/church watchdog promoting the constitutional principle of separation of state and church,” and the group said it learned of the baptism after being tipped off by a “concerned district community member.”

The group also claims that Ferrell was “abusing his position” and committing a “constitutional violation" and that student athletes have a “First Amendment right to be free from religious indoctrination when participating in their public school’s athletics program,” and said student athletes are “especially susceptible to coercion.”

Internal School Response

In a statement, TCSD Superintendent Kristen Waters told News 3 that the coach was fired after an altercation during a football game on Nov. 3 and that the district is searching for a coach that shares the same values as Tattnall County students:

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.

With his faith making him a good role model, Johnson says she and her son are devastated by Coach Ferrell's firing.

“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,” Johnson explained.

Following Ferrell's dismissal, News 3 was also sent the following statement by Chris Line, the FFRF's lawyer: “We are glad they are looking for a new coach who will abide by his constitutional duties.”

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