WINFIELD, WV — A legendary football coach has been axed from his tradition of speaking at his local high school’s graduation ceremony due to complaints over his past references to religion in his speech.
Leon McCoy is considered a legend at Winfield High School in West Virginia, where his team won 41 consecutive games and maintained a 213-68-1 record. McCoy, now retired, has spoken at Winfield High School’s graduation every year for the past several years, but this year, he was not invited back.
“I’m disappointed,” he told local television station WCHS-TV. “I hate to go out this way.”
Principal Bruce McGrew said that he received complaints about McCoy’s speech last year, asserting that the coach was violating the separation of church and state by mentioning God in his address. While he did not like cutting McCoy from the ceremony, McGrew felt that he had to comply with the law.
“There were complaints on me allowing prayer and so forth. Unfortunately, the law says we can’t do that,” he told the Charleston Daily Mail. “I don’t like it and by no means agree with it. … It’s a difficult situation when I am forced to do something as part of my job.”
“I knew it was coming,” McGrew continued. “We’ve been on borrowed time. I am a Christian. This puts me in a bind that I don’t enjoy.”
Superintendent Chuck Hatfield likewise wrote in a statement last week that the matter came down to legal compliance.
“Leon McCoy has had a huge impact on Winfield High School, and I have supported him and consider him to be one of my dear friends,” he said. “Whether I support him or not, I have to uphold the law.”
McCoy says that he understands the decision and also wishes to be compliant.
“I want to do what is right. As Christians, we have been, in the past, able to express our views, but we can’t forget about the law,” he said. “If we are breaking the law, we have to make adjustments. This is not a decision of the board; this is the law. I hope people will take my lead.”
But others strongly disagree with the decision, vowing protests and petitions over the matter. Some have opined that the reason God is being removed from the public sphere is because Christians sit back and allow it to happen.
“He hasn’t violated any law,” one commenter stated. “The constitution states Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Why don’t they just say they stopped it to keep from offending anyone and be done with it.”
“There is no ‘separation of church and state’ in the Constitution or Declaration of Independence. But I’ll tell you what is in the Constitution—freedom of religion,” another said. “We need to start pushing back against the atheist, Marxist, believers in moral relativism.”
“This is so sad [that] a couple anti-Christ people can stop this,” a third commenter wrote. “If the people of God would only stand up and take a stand. Maybe we could set a few of these type of people down.”
The graduation ceremony is scheduled for Friday.