Tennessee School District Defends Allowing Pastor to Baptize Students After Football Practice as Atheistic Freedom From Religion Foundation Complains

Robertson County School District in Middle Tennessee is not backing down after receiving a legal complaint from a secular organization in response to one of its schools allowing a pastor to perform student baptisms after a football practice.

Following the legal complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation over the baptism of two students on Aug. 7, Robertson County Director of Schools, Chris Causey, confirmed this week that baptisms had taken place after practice at Springfield High School.

The Wisconsin-based organization said in its Sept. 5 command letter that it was a violation of the First Amendment for the two players to have been baptized by Yellowjackets character coach Chad Diehl, who works as a local  Baptist pastor.

Additionally, the group took issue with the fact that coaches promoted photos of the baptisms on their social media pages.

FFRF was alerted to the baptisms by a concerned local resident, the complaint alleges. FFRF urged the school district to put an end to “prayers, religious rituals and a ‘character coach,’” things the legal group argues constitute and endorsement of religion.

Attached to the FFRF complaint are screenshots of pictures that were posted to social media by coaches showing the two players getting baptized in a tub and their teammates huddling around.

The letter argues that it is “illegal for coaches to “organize or participate in religious activities with students, including baptisms” because it sends a message to students that such activities are endorsed by the school. FFRF also called for Diehl to be fired as a “character coach.”

Causey, however, did not agree with FFRF’s assessment, saying in a statement that the coaches were found not to have violated any policies or laws after an administrative review, according to The Tennessean.

“The activities that occurred on or about Aug. 7, were student-initiated, student-led, and occurred after the practice session had ended, and after school hours,” the statement reads. “All participation was voluntary with no requirement for attendance either stated or implied.”

In its initial letter, FFRF attorney Chris Line objected that the First Amendment’s prohibition against school-sponsored religious exercise “cannot be overcome by claiming such activities are voluntary.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith