First Amendment applies to coaches, too

Published 9:51 am Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Football and faith are often intertwined here in the South. And sometimes that relationship gets schools and coaches in trouble.

But a recent controversy over a high school coach baptizing a player shows just how misguided groups like Freedom From Religion Foundation are when they complain about these instances as violating the idea of separation of church and state.

Newton High School football coach Ryan Smith recently baptized a football player off campus, on private property, and after school. The players who attended did so voluntarily, according to the school.

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In the video posted on Facebook, Smith and the player are in a plastic tub of water and are surrounded by other students and adults.

On the video, Smith says: “He made a decision that a man’s supposed to make. He accepted Christ as his savior.”

The FFRF group says that action was inappropriate because a public school employee cannot participate in religious activities with students.

“The district feels this is a private matter of choice for that student. Any additional Newton Municipal School District students that attended the baptism did so as their own voluntary act,” a statement from the school said.

At least the school is defending its coach. Others haven’t done so when faced with similar threats from theses types of groups.

Stopping a teacher or coach from participating in religious activities with students (off campus) violates their First Amendment rights, but no one typically fights to defend them.

Under the logic put forth by FFRF, no coach or teacher would be allowed to lead a religious activity anywhere if a student happened to attend. It’s a sad time in this country when that’s the prevailing idea of what is constitutional.