A Roman Catholic priest who is also a West Virginia public school teacher has asked officials to allow him to wear his religious habit in the classroom.
The Rev. George Nedeff is a member of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. He recently was hired as a substitute teacher in Wood County. The 75-year-old told the Parkersburg News and Sentinel that students might benefit from having a priest in their schools.
Nedeff wears a gray, ankle-length habit as representation of the order and his vows along with a crucifix and a rosary.
"I am a priest. I am proud of it," he said Wednesday. "I'm proud of the religious order I'm part of, and this is my life now."
School officials respect Nedeff's request, Wood County Superintendent John Flint said. But a decision hasn't been made.
"We know him and he is very sincere and very heartfelt, but we have to do our due diligence," Flint said.
West Virginia Department of Education spokeswoman Kristin Anderson said state law doesn’t specifically prohibit or allow the wearing of religious garments in the classroom. Federal law provides conflicting guidance, she said.
Nedeff has been a practicing priest for nine years and recently returned to West Virginia after recovering from a life-threatening illness while serving in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Nedeff serves as a "substitute priest" on weekends for the Catholic Diocese of Charleston-Wheeling, filling in at parishes throughout the area. Nedeff said he fully expects his clothes will generate conversations in the classroom.
"The students are going to want to know about me," he said. "I'll probably introduce myself and give a little talk about myself, what led me to this point, what led me to become a priest."
Ultimately, Anderson said, the decision will have to be made by Wood County Schools.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.