Group sends letter to Newton superintendent in support of coach who baptized student

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NEWTON COUNTY, Miss. (WJTV) — A non-profit group is supporting a Newton high school football coach after an organization said he unlawfully baptized a student.

Mike Hurst, Director of the Mississippi Justice Institute, sent the letter to Dr. Virginia Young Thursday showing support. Dr. Young is the superintendent of the Newton Municipal School District.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation said Coach Ryan Smith organized and baptized one of his football players in September.

The baptism got a lot of attention after FFRF sent a letter to Dr. Young, saying that the situation needed to be investigated. They claimed that it is unlawful to have anyone promoting personal beliefs or organizing religious activities with students.

Hurst said in his letter that Coach Smith didn’t do anything wrong because it was a private religious expression outside school hours. The baptism was not a school-sponsored event, and it was on private property. Due to the circumstances, Hurst said there was no constitutional violation.

Dr. Young released a statement about the incident a few days ago:

The baptism of a Newton Municipal School District student did not occur on school property and did not occur during school hours or during any organized school activity, thus 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 and decision.

— Dr. Virginia Young

Read the letter MJI sent to Dr. Young here.

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