The Freedom From Religion Foundation is contending that the hiring of a South Carolina public school football coach may have been because of his religion in violation of school nondiscrimination polices.
Text messages exchanged between Seneca High School Principal Cliff Roberts and recently hired coach Hal Capps indicate that their shared religiosity was a significant factor in Capps' appointment.
"The devil tries to let that little bit of doubt creep in ... can I trust you to stay the course?" Roberts asked Capps in a text that was part of a series obtained by FFRF under the Freedom of Information Act. Capps replied, "The devil is powerful—but our God is mighty."
While offering Capps the job, Roberts texted, "I am going to trust you and trust the Good Lord through this, and be obedient to what I feel he is leading us to do." To this, Capps responded, "Amen."
Capps was known for leading post-game prayer circles at a North Carolina high school, which ended after FFRF complained in 2014.
In a Feb. 9 press release announcing the decision to hire Capps, Roberts described him as having "high moral character."
"It is grossly inappropriate and illegal for public school officials to consider religion as part of a public school hiring decision," FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliot writes in a letter to Michael Thorsland, superintendent of the School District of Oconee County. "Principal Roberts' use of biblical allusion and statement that he is going to 'trust the Good Lord through this, and be obedient to what I feel he is leading us to do' creates the undeniable impression that the principal's Christian faith played a role in the hiring process."
FFRF is asking the School District to conduct an immediate investigation into whether its hiring and nondiscrimination policies have been violated.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a state/church watchdog group that has 23,000 nonreligious members, including more than 100 in South Carolina.