A Georgia school district has declared that the baptism of more than a dozen football players on public school property last month violated official policy.
An investigation by the Carroll County School System concluded that Villa Rica High School and its principal should not have permitted a local church to perform a baptism on the field of its football stadium.
A video of the so-called "mass baptism," which involved multiple players on the Villa Rica football team and at least one coach, was uploaded to YouTube by First Baptist Villa Rica in August and quickly went viral.
The video was recorded by the pastor, Kevin Williams', son, and was posted to YouTube along with the message: "We had the privilege of baptizing a bunch of football players and a coach on the field of Villa Rica High School! We did this right before practice! Take a look and see how God is STILL in our schools!"
The "mass baptism" soon caught the attention (and wrath) of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist group dedicated to protecting the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.
In a letter sent to the Carroll County School district, the atheist group pointed out that it is "illegal for coaches to participate in religious activities with students," called the baptism an "egregious constitutional violation," and demanded that officials investigate the ceremony.
Under the United States Constitution, the government is not allowed to promote religion. Public high schools are considered government entities.
In a statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Carroll County School District superintendent Terry Jones said "The principal’s understanding was that the event was a church sponsored activity that was to be conducted after school and he was not aware of student involvement. From the investigation the school district has concluded that [Villa Rica High School] failed to follow district facility usages procedures for outside groups using school facilities.”
Jones added that district officials had no idea the event was going to take place, and that all school personnel involved would be dealt with appropriately.
Photo credit: Fox News