A Georgia high school football coach is being targeted for his team?s religious practices by a non-profit organization that aims to protect the separation between state and church.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a complaint to Walker County Schools Tuesday, accusing Ridgeland High School coach Mark Mariakis of multiple violations of the First Amendment.
The allegations against Mariakis include:
- Holding pre-game meals at a local church, where a ?preacher sermonizes to the players about the Christian religion.?
- Pressuring players to attend a Christian football camp that the players must pay for.
- Leading pre- and post-game prayers.
- Using bible verses on team gear and in motivational speeches.
- Taking the team to a Mormon church and afterwards making fun on the religion within the proximity of Mormon players.
The FFRH concludes the complaint by requesting Walker County Schools investigate and take immediate action to stop the violations. Read the entire complaint here.
Emails to Mariakis, Ridgeland principal Glen Brown and Walker County superintendent Damon Raines were not immediately returned. Walker County Schools confirmed reception of the complaint in released statement.
Mariakis, who survived brain cancer in 2008-2009, is entering his ninth season at Ridgeland. He is 52-36. The Panthers open their season Friday at No. 1 Calhoun.
Update: A Facebook page titled "Support Coach Mariakis" has been created and had nearly 1,400 likes as of Thursday afternoon.
Update: Walker County Schools Superintendent Danny Raines is attending a conference in Macon and will be out of the office until Monday, according to office administrator Janet Cobb. No other comment on the complaint against Mariakis is expected to be released today.
A message left on Mariakis' cell phone Thursday afternoon was not immediately returned.
So, assuming all of the allegations are correct, do you feel this coach was behaving appropriately for a public school employee? If the reverse were true, and it were an atheist coach hosting dinners at atheist meetups, pressuring kids NOT to attend religious camps (or to attend atheist camps, if there were such a thing), making fun of certain students' religious beliefs, et cetera, would that be appropriate? Does it matter that presumably the majority of the kids on the team come from a Christian background themselves?