Buncombe County School District in North Carolina is in the spotlight once again after one of their middle schools reportedly asked a wrestling coach not to wear a t-shirt with a religious message.
Upset by the request, the entire North Buncombe Middle School wrestling team and a few parents wore a shirt that said "Got Jesus" on the front with a scriptural reference on the back to a wrestling meet on Wednesday night as a response, ABC News 13 reported.
The wrestlers raised the money themselves to get the shirts made, which they plan to continue wearing to the rest of their remaining meets as well as to school.
Parents stated that the move was not "against something" but rather a movement in support of their religious convictions.
One parents told the station that for far too long, Christians in the area had been quieted, allowing their liberties to be taken away.
"I think it's just time that we let people know our voice and have our voice be heard in the right way, in love, in the spirit of truth," he shared.
The wrestlers revealed that prayer usually followed their practices, with the coach giving players the option to excuse themselves from the activity if they did not feel comfortable. But no one ever excused themselves, they said.
When asked for a statement, Jan Blunt, director of communications at Buncombe County Schools, told The Christian Post that for now, teachers and staff have been requested to wear religion-neutral clothing "when acting in an official capacity at school."
Regarding student dress and religious expression, however, every school designed their own dress code for students, "none of which prohibited individual student's expression of religion."
Blunt stated that students were also allowed by law to pray as individuals so long as they were not led to do so by staff.
The latest controversy is increasing the tension in the county, with a range of other religious activities in the schools being questioned by the community, including the availability of Gideon Bibles on campus.
Recently, Ginger Strivelli, a witchcraft-practicing mother, complained when her son brought home a Bible, which he picked up from a conference room at the North Windy Ridge Intermediate School.
When challenged, the school principal assured Strivelli that other religious texts donated by any group would also be made available as well. But when she showed up at the school with pagan spell books, she was denied.
The incident prompted a review of the "relevant practices and policies" by the Board attorney and Superintendent, Blunt told CP.
"No Bibles were 'distributed' to students," she also clarified. "They were simply available for less than 48 hours, after which the school system began winter break."
Review is currently underway and is expected to wrap up in time for a Board of Education Workshop on Jan. 25. The focus of the workshop will be to develop a 5-year strategic plan for their schools, but will also include a discussion on the topic of religion.
"The Board will not take action on any new or revised policies until they hold their regular meeting on February 2," Blunt noted. "In the meantime, there is a moratorium on accepting any outside donated material in our schools, and we are educating principals and other employees on current laws related to this issue, and requesting their compliance with those laws" including the religion-neutral clothing request.
The Board or the North Buncombe Middle School declined to provide additional details on the t-shirt controversy to The Christian Post, including the identity of the wrestling coach and who had requested he take off his religious apparel.