A football coach was dismissed from his position for holding a religious ceremony on school grounds. Coach Isaac Ferrell served as head coach of Tattnall County High School, located near Savannah, Georgia.
In October, Ferrell invited Pastor Gary Few to practice to speak with his players and baptize those who wanted to accept. Twenty students were baptized by Few in a ceremony that took place after practice.
Video emerged on Facebook of the student-athletes being baptized. While most of the comments on Facebook were positive, the video also caught backlash.
A watchdog notified the Freedom From Religion Foundation who eventually called out Ferrell for hosting the baptism.
“A concerned district community member informed the state/church watchdog that Tattnall County High School football coach Isaac Ferrell has been using his position to push his personal religious beliefs onto players,” the Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote in a statement. “On Oct. 24, Ferrell reportedly invited a local pastor to attend football practice during which he was allowed to proselytize students and baptize them on school grounds…Student athletes have the First Amendment 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 also called for an investigation.
“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,” according to the statement.
Following the backlash, TCSD Superintendent Kristen Waters decided to fire Ferrell from his position.
“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 of Tattnall County for the 2024-2025 school year. As to any other allegations, the District does not comment during ongoing investigations.”
Although Ferrel was dismissed as the football coach, he remains a teacher at the school.