Coach gets reprimand for taking a knee during team prayer

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By: Julie Montanaro
December 13, 2016

WAKULLA COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) -- Controversy is now swirling around a middle school coach and a pre-game prayer.

The Wakulla County School superintendent is weighing in on what happened and why he put a stop to it in writing.

"We're going to fight... we're going to fight... until we can't fight no more..."

Video was taken by a parent whose son plays on the Wakulla Middle School football team. Coach Eddie Metcalf was there in the huddle for the team's pre-game warchant which was followed by a player saying the Lord's Prayer.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation complained, calling it "unconstitutional" and claiming Metcalf is endorsing and promoting religion on the job.

The Wakulla School superintendent responded with a "Letter of Professional Guidance" telling the coach he violated school policy and would be disciplined if it happens again.

Fans say the coach didn't start the prayer or say it aloud, but Pearce says the law is clear. The letter points out that the district's personnel handbook says "kneeling with students in prayer or joining hands with students in a prayer circle" are examples of "unlawful participation."

"That's not allowable under the law," Superintendent Robert Pearce said. "The coach may not participate in the prayer. He may not kneel with the players. He may not put his hands on a player during a prayer."

"What we want our coaches to do and what most people have survived with in regards to meeting the letter of the law - is to have separation from the players - two to three steps," Superintendent Pearce said. "You are allowed to have reverent respect for their prayer."

Jeremy Smith was among a group of parents who addressed the Wakulla School Board Monday night.

He wonders how what happened before the football game is any different from school leaders bowing their heads in prayer at graduation, for instance.

"All should be able to have that right," Smith said. "They are not teaching. They are not spreading their faith. They are just exercising their First Amendment right to simply pray."

Superintendent Pearce says the district hosted a training session on prayer on the football field in 2014 and will hold another training for teachers and coaches in February. He says he is considering making that training routine.

Pearce says it should give students and staff confidence to pray, but better define the parameters of doing so at school.

By: WCTV Eyewitness News
December 12, 2016

WAKULLA COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) -- A Wakulla Middle School football coach kneeling to pray with students is causing outrage for the county.

Coach Eddie Metcalf is under scrutiny after a video depicting the team in prayer was submitted by the Freedom for Religion Foundation to the school board.

Athletics coaches, teachers, and club sponsors will now undergo a refresher training session in the new year because of this incident.

Monday, a group came together at the school board meeting to support the coach's decision.

Meeting attendee Jeremy Smith said, "I believe in the separation between church and state, however, I think that the first amendment clause has been taken to such an extreme that it actually inhibits the right if the individual. They are not government property. They are constitutionally provided their amendment rights and I think it's being infringed upon."

We're told that school board members met with coach Metcalf and took disciplinary action after the complaint was filed. We hope to hear from them Tuesday and bring you their side of the story.

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