Pastor says mass baptism on school football field was 'voluntary' (VIDEO)

VILLA RICA, Ga. (AP) — The pastor of a Georgia church involved in a mass baptism before a high school football practice said Thursday the school had nothing to do with the ritual, except that it took place on a school football field.

The Rev. Kevin Williams, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Villa Rica, said the baptism of 18 students and a coach was voluntary.

The Aug. 17 baptisms drew criticism from a religious-freedom group after the church posted on the Internet video of the players being dunked into a small tub of water.

By Tuesday evening, the video had been removed from YouTube, 11 Alive reports.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation sent a letter to Carroll County school officials Tuesday asking the district to investigate.

"I can't remember another case like this," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, a Freedom from Religion Foundation official. "It's really misusing the authority of the coach to promote his personal religious agenda."