Group complains about NC coach leading team in prayer

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MOORESVILLE, N.C. — A coach has been asked to stop leading team prayers at Mooresville High School after a Wisconsin organization advocating for the separation of church and state complained to the school district, according to a report from WSOC

Coach Hal Capps would only tell WSOC they’re moving forward. However, a lot of people in the community are talking on his behalf, supporting him.

“I think he's doing what he thinks is right,” Glenn Sander said.

Capps is a high school football coach so popular that an entire cheering section is named after him. He's a leader on the field and, some say, a leader for the church.

“The more people who hear about Jesus the better,” Stewart said.

But talking about Jesus has gotten Capps in trouble.

“It's really inappropriate, wrong and unconstitutional for a coach to try to use that position to try and convert people to his religion,” Patrick Elliott, with the Freedom from Religion Foundation, said.

WSOC obtained the letter sent to the Mooresville Graded School District saying Capps "frequently prays with football players at team events and encourages them to go to church and to become baptized."

Capps coached at Western Alamance for nearly two decades before leaving in 2010.

The letter included a purported photo of a player's baptism. The coach declined to comment, but the school district told WSOC Capps was invited to that baptism by the player. They said he was not leading it, and it happened outside of school hours, off of school property.

Read more: WSOC


    • AM

      1st Amendment
      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

      • Steve

        While I agree with most of which people have said here, Mooresville HS is a public, non-religious institution. Employees, including coaches, are representatives of the NC government. Hence, they are subject to the requirements of the Establishment Clause. Case in point, the 2000 US Supreme Court Case of Santa Fe v Doe. From the ruling: “Regardless of the listener’s support for, or objection to, the message, an objective Santa Fe High School student will unquestionably perceive the inevitable pregame prayer as stamped with her school’s seal of approval.” Switch our Santa Fe with Mooresville, and you have the very foundation of this group’s protest. Indoctrination can exist even if the beliefs are that of the dominate majority. The very point of our Republic is to protect the rights and beliefs of the minority, not the majority.

      • JT

        Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment–READ IT. Since I know you won’t, let me paraphrase. In an institution that receives state/federal money, or an employee of that entity (paid by state/federal tax dollars) cannot give or appear to give preferential treatment to one religion or another. So if you are a teacher, you students may pray if they choose (contrary to the Religious Right’s big lie that it is against the law to pray in school). But as a teacher/coach, he cannot lead them in a prayer. If he does, that violates the Establishment Clause and he can be fired or the school can (read: will) be sued. It’s really rather easy to understand if you just read the thing…

      • DjLace

        JT, Try again on that..

        The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” This clause not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another. It also prohibits the government from unduly preferring religion over non-religion, or non-religion over religion.

        Some, including former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, have argued that the term was intended to prohibit only the establishment of a single national church or the preference of one religious sect over another.

        At an absolute minimum, the Establishment Clause was also intended to prohibit the federal government from declaring and financially supporting a national religion, such as existed in many other countries at the time of the nation’s founding. It is far less clear whether the Establishment Clause was also intended to prevent the federal government from supporting Christianity in general. Proponents of a narrow interpretation of the clause point out that the same First Congress that proposed the Bill of Rights also opened its legislative day with prayer and voted to apportion federal dollars to establish Christian missions in the Indian lands.

        When I was in school and at all athletic functions, we recited the Lords Prayer, and nobody complained. We also established Fellowship of Christian Athletes club after school and we held the club at school in the cafeteria. Our schools policy was, as long as it was AFTER school, it was okay. We also had meetings at the flag pole and held silent thoughts and prayers for kids that were victims of senseless violence before our first bell rung. Were we Wrong?!?

        What about the players in college and the pro sports who thank God everyday for winning the big game or scoring the winning goal, are we to shut him up or celebrate with him or her? What about our children in school who recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and they say the words, “Under God?”

        If you are against it, fine. You have a right to that opinion and you are allowed to speak it freely. If Coach Hal wants to lead his team in prayer and baptism he can do so freely as it is his right to the freedoms of expression and religion. Maybe this is a way for him to help free the young players minds and have them ready for battle when they take the field or court.

        I stand in support of Coach Hal and his players.

  • FaithC

    JT is right. Religion does not belong in school or at any public school function.
    If this man and others like him want to pray in a school setting or at a school function, then he needs to coach at a private religious based school.

  • GodBlessAll

    1st Amendment
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    Coach Capps is welcome to pray with me any day any where. I accept prayer any time any where. You don’t like to see or hear it turn away or don’t listen.

    • Rhonda Perry

      I totally agree – There was not as much violence when there was prayer- This world is really screwed up

      • dewey

        prayer usually leads to violence, as talking to an unseen individual with 3 personalities is a sure lead-in to mental health issues

  • Barbara Adkins

    Agree with Mike Bell….Wisconsin tend to your own business! And agree with his, hope they like it hot!

  • Kaffie

    Go out and spread the “word”, if they didn’t hear about the Bible at School they probably wouldn’t hear it anywhere else. Keep Wisconsin out of NC’s school system. NAACP and everyone else go STUFF IT! Prayer is free that is why no one wants to listen to it! What a nation this is becoming!

    • dewey

      and it’s that attitude the Christstains (yeah, did that on purpose), 1. got wrong and 2. it’s what makes everyone else hate you….let’s start with number 1….Jebus didn’t sermonize Gentiles…you know, the non-Jews, considering he was a Jew and number 2….doG, with all the malfeasance going on in the world doesn’t care about your sports events, lotto numbers and trivial personal problems……I for one, think that a civil war or famine is more important than the things that most Christstains ask for….95% of you sit in judgement of others even though you’re doing worse than those you claim to pray for…despite your religion being one of the new kids on the block, it somehow supersedes everything that came before it…shall I go on?

    • dewey

      and when he gets fired, are you gonna pay his bills, or are you gonna go after him for being unemployed and unnecessarily on food stamps…perhaps he can feed his family with mana

      • SCH

        Dewey you have already stated that civil war and famine are more important to you. Why are you on here? Go to one of those blogs and give them all your wonderful loving anti-Chrsitian support . Good riddance !


    THAT IS THE DEVIL STICKING HIS NOSE IN IT AGAIN. They will be wondering what happened when God calls the saved home and they are standing around scratching their heads wondering where we all went.

  • Joanne

    Keep up the good work Coach Capps, Those that don’t believe in God will burn in hell one day, unless someone like yourself can get through to them. Prayer should be in our schools and Government. Anyone that doesn’t want to listen can step outside or cover their ears. This is what’s wrong with our country today, some little group or person doesn’t like something and our leaders give into them. God bless you Coach Capps.



  • b.alex

    What group in Mooresville made the complaint? The only group I read that has a problem with what the coach was doing was this foundation that is based out of Madison, Wisconsin. So the headline to this story is a little misleading. What goes on in NC is none of a group in Wisconsin’s business and vice versa. What this group is seeking is free publicity and they succeeded. Now if someone in Mooresville has a problem with what this coach was doing,then let’s discuss it otherwise,quit giving these yoyo’s free advertising.

  • The Merovingian

    Separation of Church and State….another progressive socialist constitutional myth. But I would expect nothing less from Wisconsin where Stalinist Union thugs run ram

  • AM

    What does Wisconsin have to do with North Carolina Schools? That is totally insane. I agree with the others, that’s what is wrong with our Country. We have let people take God and prayer out of our schools. When I was in Elemntary school some 40 years ago. That is how we started everyday out, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the USA Flag, and then saying the “Lord’s Prayer”. And I must say, things were a lot better back then. I know there was evil back then. But nothing like there is today. I believe in the laws of our Country. But I also believe in the values that our country was founded on. For example, all of our currency that ALL of you spend says “In GOD We Trust” think about it. We didn’t just run out and have that printed a few days ago. It’s been on there a very very long time. God Bless you Coach Capps. Thank you for the difference you have made in many lives.

    • dewey

      In doG We Trust has been on paper money and in the Pledge of Allegiance since 1957, on coinage since 1864….not a long time at all….and it was included at the behest of…drum roll please….the government! Now, you know what idea is older than “in doG we trust”?? The rapture…a word that NEVER appears in the bible yet a lot of folks are waiting on it….conceived by John Nelson Darby in the 1830’s, sold off as dispensationalism where there is absolutely no basis for it…..I think things in society changed because beyond copulating and making children, parents are useless these days…most of them act worse than the kids they’re supposed to be raising…right, wrong and morals existed before your “biblical age”…history says so

  • b.alex

    Still haven’t seen the identification of the person or persons from Mooresville who have a problem with what the coach was doing. So I guess I can assume that there is no group from Mooresville as the headline stated and this is just a complaint from some carpetbagger attorney from Wisconsin who can’t cut it in the real world blowing smoke up everybody’s rear and the school system lacking the guts to tell him to mind his own business. Love how this story lacks pertinent information. Good job Fox News on following up on this story and getting more facts.

      • b.alex

        Dddddddewey , are we having trouble putting words together? Maybe this subject is a little too much for you.

    • skeptic150

      The FFRF only responds to complaints from locals – I know it’s hard to believe, but Christian love often isn’t so loving in these situations so I can understand those who are complaining wanting to remain anonymous.

  • skeptic150

    As long as he’s leading everyone in prayer to the flying spaghetti monster, it should be fine, right?
    May he and the players be blessed and touched by the noodley appendages of the FSM.

  • nikki

    You if don’t like it, don’t take part in it. He isn’t forcing them to take part if they don’t want to. Stop making Christians have to compromise when no other group will..has anyone ever stopped to look at that??

  • Scott

    I dont see a violation if it is voluntary to be a part of it. If someone is offended do be a part of it. I didn’t see anything in the article where it was manditory to participate. Simple, kinda like turning the channel on a tv. We have bigger issues to deal with in this country.

  • Andy

    God is so good! Read the Bible and see what happens to those who turn their backs on Him! Please…for your own sake…find God before it is too late! He truly loves you!

  • Anthony clapp

    Patrick Elliott is an idiot. Coach Capps was my high school lacrosse coach. He is a great guy and a awesome coach. In North Carolina we pray before and after every big event. Anyone from that area knows Friday night football is a big deal for these kids. What people don’t understand is that coach Capps doesn’t start or organize the prayer. It’s players on the team who know It’s right thing to do who start and organize the prayer.

  • dougindeap

    It is important to distinguish between “individual” and “government” speech about religion. The constitutional principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public square–far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment’s “free exercise” clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views–publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school coaches coaching students at practices or games), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment’s constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. (Students also are free to exercise and express their religious views–in a time, manner, and place that does not interfere with school programs and activities.) If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

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