There was a common saying among several parents of students at Chapin Baptist Child Development Center: “Skye is the best.”
That catchphrase is now a sort of rallying cry after Skye Moore was fired from the school on Feb. 21 for a “conflict of interest,” which Moore says refers to her relationship with a woman. Moore taught at the pre-kindergarten school, which is connected to Chapin Baptist Church, for five years.
When she walked into work last week after a week of vacation, Moore says she was taken to meet with Pastor Michael Hull. Moore said she asked what conflict she was being fired for and was told the problem was her same-sex relationship.
She has been in a relationship with her partner, Hannah, for three years. In March 2018, they were engaged. It wasn’t a secret, Moore says — Hull, as well as her direct supervisors and all her previous bosses, knew about her relationship.
Hull declined to comment.
At least six parents interviewed by The State said they also knew about Moore’s relationship, but they didn’t consider it a problem. Moore was known for being particularly attentive, loving and engaging, and her personal life didn’t impact that, the parents said.
“I don’t care as long as you take good care of my kid,” said Olin Reece, whose son Kasper was in Moore’s care.
When Sarah Gates met Moore, it was on her son’s first day of school. She saw Moore standing in a classroom and all the kids surrounding her.
“She was just like a light,” Gates said. “They saw her as their teacher ... but that was like their buddy.”
Another parent, Melanie Wayburn, knew Moore because they both attended Chapin High School, though they were not close as teenagers. Years later, Wayburn was looking for a day care for her children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum.
She heard about how much the students at the school “adored” Moore, and how Moore would send pictures and videos to parents throughout the day, assuring them their child was doing well. More than that, she did extra work to make all students feel comfortable.
“She is always looking to make sure her classroom is suitable for every kind of disability or learning need,” Wayburn said.
Moore’s attentiveness stands out in Wayburn’s memory. One day, students were in a big room full of activities. Because of her disorder, Wayburn’s daughter, who was 18 months old at the time, gets “very overwhelmed or overstimulated” when there’s too much going on. Moore decided to shadow Wayburn’s daughter, helping her participate in the activities in safe ways.
Then last week, Wayburn saw Moore post on Facebook about being fired, and she was shocked.
“That absolutely took me back, just because she has always been excellent as an educator and it didn’t make any sense,” Wayburn said.
Brittany Turner was Moore’s direct supervisor, as the former curriculum coordinator for the school, and said she’s questioned the motivation behind the church’s decision. Moore was named “teacher of the month” several times while working at the school, and would stay late or fill in wherever needed, said Turner, who left the Chapin Baptist center in 2018.
“To say she went far and beyond would be an understatement ... she was a dedicated teacher and her love for her job was evident,” Turner wrote in an email to The State.
Aside from teaching a group of about a dozen students Monday through Friday, Moore also cared for the children of adults participating in the church’s addiction recovery program, Turner said. In her off hours, Moore baby-sat students.
“My kid loved her so much that we brought her into our home,” said Christina Hogan Bickley, a parent whose child Moore taught.
Bickley said Moore has attended “almost every single one” of her daughter’s birthday parties, all the while taking pictures.
“That’s what makes her the person she is. Not only was she my kid’s preschool teacher, but she’s part of our lives. She took time out of her personal life and attended special moments,” Bickley said.
For Moore, the biggest heartbreak wasn’t losing the job she’s had since graduating from college — she has other offers lined up already — but not being able to teach her students, some of whom she’s known “since birth.”
“I know that they are going to be so confused and so lost,” she said.
Moore was going to teach Kristen Christie’s daughter, Nora, this fall, but the family has been left “heartbroken and ashamed.”
“Whether it was intended or not, this single decision has created severe hurt and pain for hundreds of children, parents and members of the community and beyond,” Christie said.
Many of Moore’s friends, as well as parents of her students and other community members, are condemning the church’s actions, calling Moore’s firing discrimination and calling for Hull to explain why he fired Moore — and why now, six months after he started as senior pastor at the church.
“Churches are where sinners go to get fixed, not where sinners get kicked away,” Reece said. “I’m not sure he’s doing the work that he should be doing. Maybe he should find another job.”
Hull said he could not comment.
“It is best that I respectfully refrain from making any comments or statements about this matter,” he wrote in an email to The State.
Gates, who attends a different church but whose children still attend the Chapin Baptist school, said firing Moore for her relationship is antithetic to Biblical teachings.
“If you’re going to go after someone for not living the lifestyle that your church wants, then there’s probably more than one person. Homosexuality is not the only sin,” she said.
Moore’s friends and supporters are organizing a peaceful protest at Chapin Baptist’s 8:30 a.m. service on Sunday, March 3. Moore said she is trying to find an attorney. If she’s successful, she said she would only consider taking the job back until the end of the school year, so the children have consistency.
“But that is if the pastor were to leave. I would never want to work alongside him ever again,” Moore said.
Because sexual orientation has not been recognized as a protected class under the federal Civil Rights Act, or under many states’ laws, it can be difficult for employees who feel they have been discriminated against to challenge the decisions in court. Churches also have certain legal protections and privileges because they are religious institutions, said J. Lewis Cromer, a longtime employment lawyer in South Carolina.
The controversy surrounding Moore’s firing comes at a time when churches are grappling with their stances on LGBTQ members and church leaders. On Tuesday, the United Methodist Church debated at its global conference in St. Louis whether to keep, strengthen or change a prohibition on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy. Some of the more liberal Methodist churches were pushing for greater inclusivity, but the delegation ultimately voted to tighten laws and enforce the ban.
In Moore’s termination letter, church leaders wrote the conflict was “key doctrinal distinctives that govern the objectives” of the school and church.
“The dissolving of this working relationship is not a matter of job performance. It is strictly a matter of the conflict of interest. Skye has carried out her duties and responsibilities well,” the letter says.