High school football coach agrees to stop leading prayers after complaint

School of the alleged "team baptism"
School of the alleged "team baptism"

MOORESVILLE, NC (WBTV) - School leaders in Mooresville have told the high school football coach that he'll have to stop leading his players in prayer.

Hal Capps is the popular coach of the Blue Devils, but a group that advocates the separation of church and state got involved after it said that a parent complained about those prayers.

In a YouTube video, Capps is heard saying "let's thank the big guy in the sky" before leading his players in prayer.

"Being a Christian I have no problem with prayer in school or pray anywhere," said Mooresville native Belvin Sherrill.  "If a coach was to lead a team in prayer, that's perfectly fine."

While Capps certainly seems to have a majority of the support in the community, the prayers led by Capps will stop, according to school leaders.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is in Wisconsin and claims about 450 members in North Carolina.

The group's web page warns that believing in the Bible can endanger your health and life, and boasts about getting Gideon Bibles taken out of hotel rooms at public universities.

Staff Attorney Patrick Elliot told WBTV that the group took up this fight because "School employees, including coaches, may not abuse their school position to advance their religious views. Students of all religious beliefs, and no belief, should feel welcome in school athletic programs. The school district's decision not only respects the Constitution but also the diverse student body that it serves."

The group also gave us a picture it says shows Capps and another coach holding a team baptism.

School leaders say it was not a team baptism, but that several players were baptized and wanted Capps present.

They say they have asked the coach to stop leading prayers and that he has agreed to do so.

The controversy has upset many around Mooresville, where football and faith are both revered.

"I think the man is right whenever he says he wants to pray with his players," said Barry Lambert.

"Upsets me that people, I believe what the Bible says, like I said I am a Christian, it upsets that some people can just dictate what you do because of their beliefs and not take into consideration your own," Sherrill added.

"I think the man, the coach should be able to pray with his players, pray with his players or anybody else that he wants too," said Betty Lambert.  "That's our right, we as Christians have stood back too long."

School officials were not available today, and someone at the school office told us that Coach Capps would not speak about this issue.

Both the school system and the Freedom From Religion Foundation told WBTV that they consider this issue to be resolved with the coach agreeing not to lead his team in prayer.

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