A high school football coach is being told to stop praying for his students prior to football games by the superintendent after receving complaints from parents and the Foundation From Religious Freedom (FFRF). However, the coach is not facing the battle alone. The football players from Mooresville High School are standing up to support their coach.
Coach Hal Capps from Mooresville High School in North Carolina has been banned from praying on the school's premises by the superintendent, who met with the coach after receiving numerous complaints for attempting to promote religion on students. The FFRF said that the coach is violating the Constitutional rights of students who do not share the same beliefs as the coach nor believe in praying.
However, his own team have come to his defense, stating that Coach Capps is an exceptional teacher and someone who invests in their lives outside the field. The team believes that Coach Capps should not have to stop praying or face serious consequences for doing so.
In an interview with Fox and Friends, Dallas Jackson, one of the student football players, represented his teammates and stood behind their coach, who they believed has helped them "grow as men." When asked what Coach Capps' prayer ritual consists of, Jackson explained that before every game, he would pray that "God gets all the glory" no matter what. "[He would] pray over our safety, and he prayed we'd have a good game and that we played to our best of our abilities," explained Jackson.
The largest atheist organization of the country, the Freedom From Religious Foundation (FFRF) believe there is a clear violation of rights taking place. In a statement against Coach Capps, they wrote: "It is a violation of the Constitution for the Mooresville High School football coach to organize, lead or participate in prayers or other religious proselytizing before, during or after games and practices."
Notably, the FFRF is the same group that had recently made headlines by attempting to remove the Bible from a Florida City Council last month. The group specializes in cases that "don't separate the church from government" or promotes one particular religion over another.
Jackson continued his support by clarifying that Coach Capps does not force his beliefs on anyone, and any player who does not agree with praying has the option to step out with no consequences. "He gives you the option that if you don't want to pray, you can step out," he explained. "You don't have to pray."
The community and the players alike have been disappointed by the entire controversy surrounding Coach Capps, according to Jackson. Throughout the local area, Coach Capps is regarded highly by students and residents. "He's more than just a coach," he said." He does a lot for the students and the community, and he reaches out to families that don't have a lot. And he helps us all grow as men, more than just players."
Students and players have also utilized social media to show their support to Coach Capps. Another player, Mike Natoli, who goes by the Twitter name @Natoli14, remarks: "These clowns [the FFRF] think they r gonna stop teams from praying? Really? God is much stronger than this pathetic group!! #isupportcapps" [sic].
Though no official suspension or expulsion has been issued by the school, the team players will continue to follow the coach's steps. Jackson said that if Coach Capps is forced to stop praying over his team, that the team would take the "leadership role" and "step up" to pray themselves. "They can't sue players," said Jackson. "It's our right."