District investigates mass baptism at Carroll County school


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VILLA RICA, Ga. (AP) — A school district in Georgia is investigating whether football players participated in a mass baptism on school grounds before practice, officials said.

WXIA-TV reports (http://on.11alive.com/1JB8TGQ ) the Carroll County School District is probing the Aug. 17 incident.

Video posted online by First Baptist Villa Rica shows players being submerged in a tub of water in a baptism ceremony, a rite of initiation in many Christian churches.

"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!" church officials wrote in a caption accompanying the video. "Take a look and see how God is STILL in our schools!"

The pastor of First Baptist did not return messages from WXIA-TV seeking comment.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation sent a letter to Carroll County officials Tuesday asking the district to investigate the incident. It requested that the district state what steps it is taking to protect the constitutional rights of students.

"I can't remember another case like this," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, a foundation official. "It's really misusing the authority of the coach to promote his personal religious agenda."

"It's forcing them to undergo a religious ritual to be accepted on a team," she said. "How are they going to cross their coach? They have no choice. It's proselytizing, it's coercive, and it's not legal in our schools."

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Information from: WXIA-TV, http://www.11alive.com/

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