Former Winfield football coach Leon McCoy has been giving remarks as part of the school's commencement for years.
Charleston Daily Mail photo
Former Winfield football coach Leon McCoy has been giving remarks as part of the school's commencement for years.

WINFIELD, W.Va. — The class of 2014 at Winfield High School will head into the world next week without parting words from legendary high school football coach Leon McCoy.

McCoy’s address during commencement exercises had become a tradition at the school over the last two or three decades. However, due to complaints about his religious references in his address and the fact he’s retiring from the school system, McCoy won’t be part of this year’s ceremony.

“We got some complaints filed last year and I forwarded those to the school just so they would be aware,” said Putnam County School Superintendent Chuck Hatfield. “Over that period of time I guess the school decided that Mr. McCoy was retiring and it was time to put that whole thing to a close.”

The decision to not add McCoy to the lineup has riled a number of community members and members of the Winfield senior class. Some of the students have started a petition drive to request McCoy be added to the list. Social media has been abuzz with the matter and in many cases Hatfield said that hasn’t’ been the best for anyone involved.

“Our biggest concern right now is trying to get the focus on the graduating class of Winfield High School,” Hatfield said. “We don’t want this to take away from them; those kids are only going to graduate one time.”

Hatfield said the matter was settled when Principal Bruce McGrew and McCoy had a discussion and McCoy hasn’t raised a fuss about it. He said there has never been a formal decision made on the matter by him or the Board of Education. However, when complaints are lodged, particularly in writing, they have to be addressed.

“We’re in a position we have to protect everybody’s rights,” Hatfield said. “Whether we agree with them or whether we don’t.”

McCoy told WCHS-TV he wanted to make it very clear he holds no ill will toward anyone at the school or board office. He said graduation day should be about the kids not him. McCoy added he has great respect for the school administration.

 

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Comments

  • Boo-hooers everywhere

    Considering it's the 2014 graduates graduation who earned this day, their voice should be the ONLY voice heard on this matter! The whiners can take a walk!

    Also, since it is about the 2014 graduates and NO ONE ELSE...these graduates should utilize their US Constitutional Rights and let their voice be heard!!

    GO 2014 GRADS!

    • Aaron

      What constitution right does a graduate have to pray at a state sanctioned event?

    • Mike

      The graduates don't get to dictate the law. I guess if they voted to toss out racial minorities also you'd be for that?

      • Greg

        Amen!

  • timbo g

    Someone needs to tell our illustrious superintendent (that by way does not have a doctorate and "makes" policy on the fly) that Mr. McCoy retired 2 years ago. Chuck Hatfield rolled his principal under the bus. Great leadership--usually don't the leadership take the lead. Chuck is a buck passer and the board should call him on it.

  • FungoJoe

    A Hatfield silencing a McCoy. Hmmm.
    Round 2 of the Hatfield-McCoy Fued is a startin in Winfield.

  • FungoJoe

    I would bet a dollar to a donut that the ones complaining are all liberal repressive Progressive democrats. There is no Christianity in the democrat party.

  • fed up

    Remember it is freedom of religion, not freedom from religion...I think the students should wear a big piece of duct tape over their mouths in protest....I am so tired of hearing complaints from a small percentage of people who ruin it for everyone else..

  • rick

    The Constitution is very clear on this one...it protects the rights of all over the will of the majority. Religion is a personal choice..and it is great in the proper setting ...the church and the home...not in the schools where there are people of various religions and backgrounds.

  • A person

    Hatfield.... You are not protecting Christians rights of freedom of speech and religion with not let McCoy speak.

  • donutfiend77

    Mind made up. My children will go to Hurricane.

  • Mike

    Sounds like Hatfield has no guts.. Gives way to a bunch of crying little babies. Nice move Hatfield. To the people that cried the most "Grow up" If I livied in Putman county and more so in the Winfield school district I would call he this idiot to be fired.

  • David

    So the Superintendent who kicked out McCoy so a few malcontents could have their voices heard now wants to silence the majority who might want to have their voices heard on the matter?

    Can you say P. O. S.

  • David

    All the people who support Coach McCoy should simply boycott the ceremony and let the 7 crybabies have it all to themselves....

  • Guardian

    An additional thought - the will of the majority doesn't mean a damn thing any more. When the minority rules, you are laying the foundation blocks for an upheaval. One day, the majority will no longer be content to remain silent . . .

    • Aaron

      Were this country a Democracy, you might have a point. As we're not, you don't.

  • Guardian

    This is a sad day. We've given the secular crowd yet another victory. I hope they choke on it.

  • Chris

    Hatfield throwing Bruce under the bus is a cowardly act. Bruce and Coach McCoy are both strong, Christian men and Bruce would not have made this decision. It was made for him and anyone who disagrees, doesn't know what they're talking about. Winfield was one of the last bastions of religious tolerance but it should come as no surprise to anyone considering the amount of hatred and persecution Christians face today in America....

    • WVU86

      Really Chris? "....considering the amount of hatred and persecution Christians face today in America...."
      Care to provide examples of said persecution? Anything like the pregnant Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death today for being Christian. As for the McCoy issue, people have taken their sides and won't budge. BUT, to justify your pro-McCoy position with such a "hatred and persecution" statement is a gross insult to Christians. Just yesterday, our state Senate president was boasting that W.Va. has a pro-life Sentate president, pro-life House speaker and a pro-life Governor. yep, real Christian persecution in action, especially here in W.Va.

      • GiGi83

        You are correct in stating that Mr. McGrew has been thrown under the bus. Orders were passed from the board office to "take care of this." A very difficult situation for both Mr. McGrew and Coach McCoy. I have worked closely with both for 10+ years, and both are honorable and strong men. The anger needs to be directed at the point it started, Mr. Chuck Hatfield. Also, to Mr. Hatfield, who claims to be close friends with Coach McCoy, he retired over 2 years ago. You would think a close friend and especially a boss, would know this.

      • Darren

        Granted persecution may be too strong a word. However, to act like Christianity, and thereby Christians, are not under attack in America is akin to burying one's head in the sand. It may not be swords or Gallows, but an attempt to silence through lawsuits is a real and active battle.

        • Aaron

          The Supreme Court has ruled on this subject and it's been the law of the land for over 2 decades that this type of speech is not allowed.

          • Sandi

            Which law are you referring to? Sante Fe Independent School District v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290,313 (2000)? It states "nothing in the Constitution as interpreted by this Court prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the schoolday." School officials have no authority to approve, edit or censor student speech because it contains a religious component. If this is the law you are referring to, 2000 is not 2 decades ago.
            I realize Coach Mc Coy is not a student, but nor is he a faculty or staff member. If the students want him to speak, they are entitled to ask him to do so.

  • wvumounties8

    Why can't people just grow up and quit complaining like tattle-tailing children. If you don't agree, then don't listen. Many more don't complain.

    • RHytonen

      That's what they said - "we're not listening."

    • Aaron

      Yes, stop complaining about your constitutionally protected rights. What is wrong with you non Jesus loving heathens? Don't you know Jesus said to pray out in the open loudly where everyone can here so stop your crying. The state has the right to force my religion on you because it's mine.

      Sheesh.

      • Wirerowe

        The us constitution was written to protect religion from the state and not the state from religion. The only specific reference in the constitution is that the federal government cannot pass legislation that gives one religion preference over another. Prohibitions of prayer and biblical references in local schools are judge made law that have nothing to do with the US constitution. I don't think that prayer in school is appropriate but I do not think it should be prohibited based on the US constitution.

        • Aaron

          I agree with the Wiseman verdict in which Justice Kennedy wrote "To say a teenage student has a real choice not to attend her high school graduation is formalistic in the extreme. True, Deborah could elect not to attend commencement without renouncing her diploma; but we shall not allow the case to turn on this point. Everyone knows that, in our society and in our culture, high school graduation is one of life's most significant occasions. A school rule which excuses attendance is beside the point. Attendance may not be required by official decree, yet it is apparent that a student is not free to absent herself from the graduation exercise in any real sense of the term "voluntary," for absence would require forfeiture of those intangible benefits which have motivated the student through youth and all her high school years."

          I think the decision by Kennedy is of the same tenor that our Founding Fathers intended when they wrote the 1st Amendment.

        • WVU86

          No Wirerowe. The U.S. Constitution was written - in part - to protect individuals from government, including a state-sponsored religion. Courts at all levels all across the U.S. in liberal and conservative towns and cities, using the Constitution as its blueprint, have determined that instances such as this one in Winfield violates the U.S. Constitution. Chalk this decision up to upholding the U.S. Constitution. Look at it another way, thousands of Christians around the world - as the noticeable minority in many countries - are persecuted, imprisoned and put to death for their faith. What wouldn't those Christians give to be protected from the majority and the governments in those countries.