Georgia school under fire for holding mass baptism before football practice

VILLA RICA, GA (KTRK) -- Footage posted online of a mass baptism before football practice at an Atlanta area high school is causing plenty of controversy.

According to ABC affiliate WSB-TV, the mass baptism took place last month on the practice field at Villa Rica High School. It shows one of the team's coaches getting baptized followed by applause and cheers from bystanders. The whole event was sponsored by First Baptist Villa Rica.

"It was voluntary, it was after school, it was before practice," the pastor of First Baptist Villa Rica, Kevin Williams, told WSB-TV.

Williams said the assistant coach and nearly 20 players had all asked to get baptized on the field before practice, but school administrators were not made aware of the event.

"It was a beautiful sight. They were doing what they felt was right on their football field and nobody was forced," a member of the church said.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation released a statement in response to the event saying, "Holding team baptisms at football practice with coaches participating is a clear Constitutional violation and an abuse of the coach's position."

"I think it should be allowed. If the parents are okay with it and the children are okay with it, then I would be okay," Lucinda Woods said.

"There were African Americans, white kids, Hispanics, everyone was hugging each other," said Williams. "It was great."

The Villa Rica School District has opened an investigation into the incident, issuing a statement which read in part, "The district is currently looking into the specifics of this situation and will take appropriate steps to ensure all state and federal laws are followed."

The church behind the mass baptism has since pulled video of the event from its website. null
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