School Under Fire For Allowing Churches to Feed Football Team
by TODD STARNES
August 23, 2012
A Wisconsin-based group has accused a Georgia high school football coach of violating the First Amendment by allowing local churches to prepare meals for his team.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the superintendent of Walker County Schools demanding an "immediate investigation" into Ridgeland High School football coach Mark Mariakis.
The FFRF is a Wisconsin-based group whose purpose is to "protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church."
They are demanding the school system launch an investigation into allegations that Coach Mariakis allowed local churches to prepare pre-game meals for his football team. They also allege that the coach prayed with his team, used Bible verses in motivational speeches and on team shirts and participated in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
"Taking public school football teams to church, even for a meal, is unconstitutional," wrote FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel. "This program is an egregious violation of the Establishment Clause and must cease immediately."
Seidel said taking school children to churches and having ministers "present the Gospel of Jesus Christ" and having the food blessed "shatters the protections the First Amendment put in place."
The Walker County School system released a statement acknowledging they have received the letter and are reviewing its contents.
The FFRF said a local individual complained about a longstanding tradition of local churches providing meals to the teenage football players on game day. The complainant said a minister would typically deliver remarks "about the Christian religion."
"The fact that Mariakis visits several churches instead of one does not mitigate the violation," Seidel wrote.
The Chattanooga Valley Baptist Church is scheduled to provide a meal for the football team in late October.
Richie White, the church's youth director, said he was quite surprised to hear that an outside group had issues with feeding children.
"It would be interesting to see ...