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Eighteen Football Players Baptized School’s Football Field: “Very Essence of the First Amendment”

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An attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation has sent a letter to a high school in south Alabama complaining that the school’s role in the baptism of 18 student football players violated legal standards on separation of church and state.

The baptism took place on the Washington County High School football field on May 16 and in a letter dated May 29, attorney Christopher Line asked Washington County Superintendent John Dickey to ensure that the school is “no longer including religious rituals during school-sponsored activities.”

Chris Sanford, a student minister from Chatom Baptist Church, baptizing football players in a large trough on the football field. “None of this would be going on without head coach Devin Roberts,” Southern Alabama Fellowship of Christian Athletes staff member Dennis Hayford said.

“As a school-sponsored event, football practice cannot include any endorsement of religion or religious rituals,” Line wrote. “It is also illegal for coaches to organize or participate in religious activities with students, including baptisms.”

“The involvement of a public school coach in baptisms is so over the top as to be ludicrous,” said Freedom From Religion Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “You’d be hard-pressed to cite a display of sectarian religiosity more blatant than this.”

The complaint by Gaylor’s group amounts to “shaming high school kids” and it’s “pathetic and needs to stop,” according to a religious liberty law firm.

“The Constitution never requires people of faith to hide themselves from public view,” said Jeremy Dys, deputy general counsel for First Liberty Institute. “In fact, the ability of students and members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to freely exercise their faith in public is the very essence of the First Amendment.”

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