Longtime High School Wrestling Coach Says Religious Controversy Sparked Firing

A high school wrestling coach in a Michigan city known for its large Arab community says he’s being forced out of his job of 35 years on trumped up allegations he allowed his assistant, a local clergyman, to try converting students to Christianity.

The coach, Jerry Marszalek, told FOXNews.com he thinks the decision to not renew his contract with the school in Dearborn, Mich., just one year shy of his retirement is political. He said the principal, who is a Muslim, is bending to what Marszalek sees as unfounded complaints by a Muslim parent.

“This all started about three years ago when my volunteer assistant was released for religious dealings that he had in the community,“ Marszalek said.

According to Marszalek, Fordson High School accused the assistant, Trey Hancock, of using his position with the wrestling team to proselytize Muslim youths, and the school ordered Marszalek to “keep Hancock and his family away from the other children,” the coach said.

Marszalek said he never saw Hancock talk to the students about religion, “but I still complied. ... I even told his wife she couldn’t work the concession stand anymore.”

But Hancock has a son on the team, so the school could not prevent him from coming to the meets as a parent. And though Hancock only came to support his son, Marszalek said, another father who attended the meets continuously complained to the principal that the coach didn't do enough to keep Hancock away from the students.

Dearborn Schools' spokesman David Mustonen confirmed that principal Imad Fadlallah decided not to renew Marszalek’s contract but said it has nothing to do with Hancock.

“Jerry Marszalek is a non-union employee…If we have a union member, a teacher that’s part of the union, they are given priority to people from the outside when it comes to coaching positions. We had an assistant coach who was a union member and had expressed interest in the job, so he was given priority,” Mustonen said.

Marszalek claims he got a different story at a meeting with school officials, including Fadlallah, who admitted it was all about Hancock and cited the parent’s complaints.

FOXNews.com was unable to reach Fadlallah for a comment.

Jerry Marszalek said he hasn’t decided whether to pursue legal action against the school.