After an Alabama high school allowed several of its football players to be baptized on the field before practice, atheist watchdogs the Freedom From Religion Foundation predictably sprang into action.
Wherever any semblance of Christian faith expression makes its way into the public square, especially in schools, FFRF is there to threaten legal action and stamp it out.
Alabamans, however, aren’t quite so ready to cave to the demands of the Wisconsin-based organization.
In a letter to Tallapoosa County Schools, FFRF accused the district of violating the law by allowing football players to participate in a baptism event at Reeltown High School.
According to The Alexander City Outlook, 26 players asked Coach Matt Johnson if they could be baptized in a trough on the field prior to practice back in November. Johnson and the team chaplain gladly granted the players’ request and conducted a voluntary baptism event which, the Outlook notes, was not attended by several other teammates.
“Our community is based on those values overall,” Johnson told the Outlook. “Everybody is not the same obviously, and we’re fine with that. But the way we run our program, the way I run my program specifically is based 100 percent off Christian values.”
FFRF, however, was not amused.
“The district should take the appropriate steps to ensure there will be no further religious rituals, including baptisms, during school-sponsored activities,” FFRF attorney Christopher Line said in a letter to the school superintendent.
In an interview with Yellow Hammer News, FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor called it “an egregious overstep for public school officials to put Christian baptism in the playbook.”
When Alabama Congressman Bradley Byrne, himself a devout Christian, learned that a school in his state was being bullied by the atheist group, he minced no words in calling them out.
“I’m sick of these groups trying to tell us that we aren’t allowed to live out our faith,” Byrne said in a Facebook post about the incident. “The Freedom From Religion Foundation needs to pack it up and stop forcing their ungodly, un-American views down our throats.”
“The foundation says they want separation of church and state, but what they really want to do is to rip God out of our nation altogether,” he added.
I’m sick of these groups trying to tell us that we aren’t allowed to live out our faith. The Freedom from Religion…
Rep. Byrne continued, calling out FFRF for the “radical, anti-Christian organization” that it is.
“Helping bring even a single person to know Christ should be praised, not attacked,” Byrne declared. “The Christian values that made our country great are under attack, and we need more leaders who aren’t afraid to stand up for what is right.”
In an op-ed defending Coach Johnson and the school, Outlook sports editor Lizi Arbogast called on the FFRF to “leave Reeltown well enough alone.”
“(Coach) Johnson stands by making his kids into better men, however they choose to do so, and so do I,” Arbogast wrote. “The Freedom From Religion Foundation needs to leave Reeltown well enough alone.”
As we’ve previously reported, the FFRF has had quite a busy holiday season calling for the cancellation of school nativity plays.
This isn’t the group’s first tussle with Alabamans, either. In the past, they’ve sought to ban prayer over the loudspeaker at school football games more than once, and scolded a sheriff for publicly calling for prayer after the tragic death of a teen in his community.
In each of these three cases, Alabamans stood up to the FFRF and prayed all the more boldly in spite of their legal threats and bullying.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation only has as much power as we give it. Each time a school, a local government, or any other public organization caves to their whims, they grow stronger. We need to stand strong like these proud Alabamans, remember that the First Amendment protects the free exercise of religion, and stand up against bullies like the FFRF.
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