Parent: 'The word of God only makes them stronger' - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Parent: 'The word of God only makes them stronger'

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ROSSVILLE, GA. (WRCB) -- A local high school football program is under fire for exposing players to the Christian faith.

In a letter to Walker County Superintendent Damon Raines, the Freedom From Religion Foundation accuses Mariakis of forcing religion on his players.

Terri Erland, mother of one of Ridgeland's players, strongly disagrees.

"No, it's impossible," Erland says. "My son has said it has never been forced down on him at all."

The letter states several examples that the watchdog group believes suggest otherwise including pre and post-game coach led prayer, bible verses on team shirts and pre-game meals where the team shuttles to different churches.

Local Brett Hales sees nothing wrong with that as long as it's optional.

"I was in Afghanistan as a soldier and we were told not to push our religion on anyone over there," Hales says. "We didn't, and I don't think coach is doing that. It's great that the church volunteers. We all know about public schools and their lack of funding. It seems like this should not be an issue."

The common theme; everyone believes it should not be forced, but no one we found is saying coach Mariakis is forcing anything. That notion is coming from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Walker County Superintendent Raines released a statement saying only, they've received the letter and are in the process of reviewing it.

While many in Walker County are echoing Melissa Noblitt.

"We need the Bible back in our schools, that's what is wrong with our community and society," Noblitt says. "Before they go on the field to a game to have the word of God only makes them stronger. I think he is awesome for doing that, and they need to leave him alone."

Channel 3 also spoke with attorney Robin Flores, who's familiar with cases like this.

He says it becomes an issue if the coach is actually leading prayer at state sponsored activities like a football game.

He says the pre-game meals at churches would be okay if no one is preaching to the players.

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