North Carolina’s Moore County Schools (MCS) investigate religious activity among its staff and coaches. According to Lady Liberty 1885, back in March 2015 staff board attorney Neal Ramee sent MCS Superintendent Dr. Bob Grimesey a letter regarding laws governing participation by staff or coaches in religious activities in schools including prayer.
The letter is part of an investigation via a survey called Staff Prayer Questionnaire that asks if employees have “ever participated in or seen any prayers at any MCS athletic games or events” Further, the survey goes on to ask for the time it occurred, location, and duration. It asks for details such as, the content of the prayer and what was said before and after the prayer. Lastly, it asks for names of the participants including employees and students.
Recently Daily Haymaker published Superintendent Grimesey’s response to a formal complaint from an attorney for an advocacy group at a MCS athletic event. Dr. Grimesey had sought guidance from the school system’s attorneys, and as a result, they generated a memorandum that was distributed to the schools.
Dr. Grimesey said that the survey was for school principals and other staff only, and not meant to be seen by the public. He insisted that the intention of the survey was to “gather information so that I could confer with legal counsel to ensure that the social district was adhering to all applicable legal rules.”
In his letter he points out, “The First Amendment (and school board policy) allows students and staff to engage in such activities as private prayer and Bible study to the same extent that they may engage in comparable non-religious activities.” However, the staff are prohibited from “actively praying with students while acting in their official capacities as school employees.”
Dr. Grimesey insists that the school system “takes all of these constitutional rights and limitations very seriously and in no way discriminates against religion,” and that the purpose of the survey was to ensure the school system’s “compliance with constitutional requirements.”
Constitutional requirements are what the The First Amendment Center refers to as the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. It says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Teachers are subject to this, and are therefore “required to be neutral concerning religion while carrying out their duties as teachers.” Additionally, “Teachers do not have the right to pray with or in the presence of students during the school day.”
Further, Dr. Grimesey insists that the survey was never to be distributed to coaches but to be used by principals and athletic directors to conduct confidential interviews with coaches. Lastly, he says, “There was never any intention to direct any questions to any students or to any staff members other than principals, athletic directors, and coaches.”
The Haymaker points out, “Several of the questions in the document appear to encourage informing on other school system employees.” It suggests that a Pinecrest High School football coach Chris Metzger was targeted in this investigation. Metzger is “well-known for his involvement in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, participation in Christian events, and encouragement of his players who also wish to do so.”
How will the staff and coaches be affected by this investigation? Further, what kind of culture will develop in the school system as a result?
Image of Mr. Grimesey via WRAL