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Atheist group objects after video reportedly shows 'several football players' baptized on public school property

Image source: Facebook video screenshot

Atheist activist group the Freedom From Religion Foundation claims a video shows "several football players" being baptized on Alabama public school property last month.

After hearing from a "concerned" member of the community, the FFRF sent a May 29 letter to Washington County Schools Superintendent John Dickey. The letter said a May 16 video showed Devin Roberts — head coach of the football team at Washington County High School in Chatom — "endorsing this religious exercise" which appeared to take place on an outdoor field. Football uprights, bleachers, and lights appear in the background.

But there's no indication from the clip that Roberts himself baptized players, as USA Today High School Sports reported. Others, however, were introduced as the baptizers. Roberts on Tuesday didn't immediately reply to TheBlaze's request for comment.

Here's the clip:

What happened?

The video shows a man — whom Yahoo Lifestyle called an "unidentified pastor" — speaking to a crowd and standing next to a large tub just prior to the baptisms.

"None of this would be going on without Head Coach Devin Roberts," the man says in the video. "Now ... Devin Roberts is not normal ... this is not going on all over the United States. I've see it in a few places, and it's pretty neat, but Coach Devin Roberts ... not only does he love his players for how well they do in the weight room and on the field ... he's also concerned about their hearts."

With that, the video showed several men taking turns baptizing the apparent football players — as well as one female, who was baptized first.

Here's a photo taken after the baptisms and posted on the WC Dawgs Football Facebook page:

Roberts did note the following on Facebook after the baptisms: "So proud of all the kids and grateful to the people who made this happen! Most importantly, I'm humbled and in awe at witnessing the power of Christ move through myself and these young people. Please continue to pray for these kids as this public declaration of their faith will bring [judgment] to them from some, and praise God as their salvation delivers the grace to save them from the only [judgment] that matters!"

What else did the Freedom From Religion Foundation have to say?

FRFF legal fellow Christopher Line's letter to the district superintendent called the baptisms a "constitutional violation" and declared it's "inappropriate for a public school district to proselytize students by organizing a team baptism. It is equally inappropriate and unconstitutional for coaches to have participated, even if students or the [Fellowship of Christian Athletes] organized the baptism."

The letter added: "It is also illegal for coaches to organize or participate in religious activities with students, including baptisms. Nor can coaches allow religious leaders unique access to students during school-sponsored activities. When baptisms take place directly before or after a team football practice, on school property, with coaches' participation or leadership, any reasonable student would perceive these activities to be unequivocally endorsed by their school."

Line also said the ceremony was "especially problematic in the context of athletics, given the pressure players feel to conform to coaches' expectations so as not to disappoint coaches or hurt their standing on the team."

The letter asked that the district investigate the matter and make certain that "no further illegal religious events, including team baptisms" take place again.

The district superintendent's office on Tuesday didn't immediately reply to TheBlaze's request for comment on the matter.

What else has the Freedom From Religion Foundation been up to?

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