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?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.
Last edited by Alissa_Sal; 08-28-2012 at 05:32 PM.
Let me preface this with the fact that DH works in Walker County Schools and personally knows this coach and all of the relevant superintendents.
No one is being pressured into being Christian. Different churches are providing a free meal before games. No one has to go, although almost all do. The meals are not on school property and not an official school function. Free food is free food.
He has a huge amount of community support and most people feel the FFRF should mind their own business.
So Bonita, you would be cool with it if this was an atheist coach taking all the kids to free meals at atheist meetups before games, as long as no one is being forced to go?
Also, what about the making fun of the Mormon religion in front of students?
What about putting bible stuff on the players' gear?
My DH is a public school teacher and a big time atheist, but he is very careful to not even really talk about his own feelings about religion in the classroom because a) it's inappropriate and b) it's not his place to try to bring the kids around to his way of thinking. I think most parents of any religion would agree that it's more respectful of him to do it that way. Why is it okay for someone else to do the opposite just because you happen to agree with their religion?
No matter what the charges are, it is no business of The Freedom From Religion Foundation. If there are complaints they should be handled locally between whoever is complaining and the school board. I don't see anywhere that he is forcing players to attend these activities. The churches are donating meals, no one is forcing them to go eat. No one can force players to attend a camp that they are paying for it themselves. If any group could be classified as a hate group it would be the Freedom From Religion Foundation. I wonder why they aren't on the hate group list?
Coaching is also different than teaching. For one thing no one is forced to be on a team, it is a choice they make unlike being in a classroom for a course you are required to take. How exactly is a coach supposed to motivate a team if it doesn't come from his personal experiences and thoughts? He is not forcing the students to agree with him. I would have no problem with an atheist coach sharing his feelings if that is what he draws from for his motivation.
Mom to Lee, Jake, Brandon, Rocco
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Granddaughters Kylie 10/18/2010 & Aleya 4/22/2013
I never consider a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosopy, as a cause for withdrawing from a friend. --Thomas Jefferson
I am sure in hind site that he knows he should not have made fun of any other religion or printed verses on anything.
As for praying before or after games, DH told me that they are student led. You can not tell the students they are not allowed to pray if they want to.
The is in the heart of the Bible belt. It is very culturally normal for there to be prayer before everything.
As an aside, funny we are talking about this when I drove by Ridgeland High School less than an hour ago.
Although I think you're wrong that only people who are part of that community should have any interest in whether or not it's schools are upholding the law, if you read the complaint from the FFRF it says that the FFRF was notified by a "local complainant" so apparently someone in the community does have a problem with it.
I disagree that it would be peachy for an atheist coach to start "preaching" atheism to his high school students (and have a real hard time believing that most Christians would be cool with that either, from my experience as an atheist, let alone an atheist that has influence over your children.)
Listening to what all the coach thinks about religion should not be part of playing football, and people shouldn't have to pick between allowing their kids to play football and allowing their kids to listen to somebody else's religion if they don't want to. Coaches aren't that different from teachers, both are in a position of power and influence over the kids, which is why they have to be particularly careful about what they say and do.
Playing football should be the focus of football. We should respect each other enough to leave each others' children alone when it comes to stuff like this. I won't come around your kids and try to convert them to atheism, you don't come around my kids and try to convert them to your religion. It's just basic decency and respect.
I agree that student led prayers are allowed, but again, assuming the complaint is correct, if he's leading them, I think he's wrong. Just because you're in the bible belt doesn't mean that non-Christians don't have the same rights to not have their kids hassled by other people's religion. Freedom of religion protects from the tyranny of the majority, something you will be glad of if Christians ever find themselves in the minority.
ETA: I also think it's really disingenuous for anyone to pretend like it just so happened that they were hosting dinners at these churches and it has nothing to do with getting these kids to go to church or religion. If they wanted it to be neutral ground, I'm sure there are tons of places they could have gone, like MacDonalds. They picked the church for a reason, and the complaint mentions that there were sermons at the dinners.
Last edited by Alissa_Sal; 08-28-2012 at 06:48 PM.
I will agree that this is a deeply religious area, but I do not think this coach was forcing religion on anyone. Anything done was strictly voluntary. I was at a graduation for this school last year. There was a prayer to open graduation, but it was done by a student.
I also wanted to add for those of you who might not have ever been from the South, that there are thousands of churches here. Many have very nice gyms and facilities that they rent out. There are many community events that happen at these churches that have nothing to do with religion. It is just a rented hall. I am not saying that is what happened here, but I did want you to see other perspectives. Concerts, graduations, plays all happen at churches because they have the space.
Making fun of the other religion is the only thing I can see that he did wrong. The football team isn't hosting the meals; the churches offer up food to the players of the team. They aren't the only ones that do it and no one is forced to go. I have a feeling the complaint came from a google search made by the group. I am starting to agree with Gloria; they get closer and closer to a hate group every time I read about them. If the dinners are in a church it'd be stupid to go and then complain about the sermons. What kind of idiot attends a voluntary function in a church to get the free food and then reports the people providing the food for a sermon? Seriously?
It's not tyranny, it's spaghetti with a serving of religion you can pass on.
read more- the complaint was made by a 2011 graduate? Huh. Sounds like he's mad about not getting a scholarship to me.