FFRF Files Complaint Over Proselytizing Coach

In a situation that repeats itself daily all around the country, the Freedom From Religion Foundation recently sent a letter to a high school in Georgia about the actions of its football coach, who apparently thinks his job is to turn his players into Christians.

In an August 21 letter, FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel asked Walker County Schools Superintendent Damon Raines, to investigate complaints over practices by Ridgeland High School football coach Mark Mariakis. According to FFRF’s local complainant, Ridgeland, like Soddy Daisy and UTC, conducts prayers at school football games, in this case often organized or led by Mariakis. “It is illegal for a public school athletic coach to lead a team in prayer,” wrote Seidel, citing numerous legal cases including Supreme Court decisions.

Mariakis is accused by the complainant of shuttling players to different churches for pre-game meals and “at these events the church’s preacher sermonizes to the players about the Christian religion.” Mariakis has stated publicly that the program “opens the door for some of the kids” and is “a way of meeting the need of the churches.” Ministers will “bless the food” andaccording to one church, “presented the Gospel of Jesus Christ” to the players.

Seidel called this practice an “egregious violation” which must cease immediately.

FFRF is also calling attention to allegations that Mariakis uses bible verses as motivational tools and places pressure on players to attend a religious football camp. “Even if Mariakis is simply suggesting attendance, his position as head coach in charge of playing time, impregnates any suggestion with force. Playing time leads to scholarships and college; it should be a question of merit only, not religion,” Seidel wrote.

This is very common in sports programs, especially those with coaches affiliated with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

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  • jeremydiamond

    Great! When can we expect the breathless stories from the local newspapers and TV stations about the nasty heathens trampling all over God and football?

  • MikeMa

    Aren’t there enough christian schools in GA where this coach could pull this crap without repercussion? The public school court costs to defend this idiot clearly aren’t worth it but will no doubt be spent anyway. Money spent defending jebus versus education christian morons to be less moronic. Good luck with that choice.

  • @jeremydiamond

    There was already a Fox Affiliate somewhere that did a report on it. Oh how horrible that a small group of atheists in Wisconsin are up in arms about a school in Georgia (they went to great lengths to remind everyone that the FFRF isn’t headquartered in the same place as the complaint) that let churches prepare food for football teams! What! Christians can’t even feed children anymore? Its not like anyone was forcing them to listen to prayers!

    Except that if they’d bothered to read the actual report instead of reading Todd Starnes’ hit piece (http://radio.foxnews.com/toddstarnes/top-stories/school-under-fire-for-allowing-churches-to-feed-football-team.html) they might have seen that, in fact, the complaint was that the students were being force to listen to prayers, and forced to pray too.

  • HumanisticJones “Except that if they’d bothered to read the actual report instead of reading Todd Starnes’ hit piece (link) they might have seen that, in fact, the complaint was that the students were being force to listen to prayers, and forced to pray too.”

    Oh, please! Everybody knows that Religious Liberty is defined as “being free to use your position of authority to force your religious views on those under you”.

  • I wish I could find that affiliate coverage video again. They actually said something to the effect of “What’s the big deal if he was preaching? Shouldn’t a coach act as a good role model for what it means to be a man of Christ?”

  • mommiest

    This from the article: “Police said they were investigating whether blasphemy had been behind the attack on Samuel.”

    It says a lot about the police if they think blasphemy was the cause, as opposed to sadism.

    Sometimes, religion is just an excuse for what some idiot wants to do anyway.

  • jenniferabel

    Christian denominations should be equally offended by this coach’s behavior.

    “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

    Matthew 6:5-6