Group still asking Ridgeland to stop church visits - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Group still asking Ridgeland to stop church visits

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WALKER COUNTY, GA (WRCB) -- It's the hot topic on the front page of the Walker County newspaper.  After a month of complaints, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is still not completely satisfied with Ridgeland High School's progress.

Prayer before games and practices is no longer the issue, but bussing students to churches for dinners is. Again the group says it violates the Constitution.

FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel says, "In doing so the public school is endorsing the religious messages of that church. There is significant legal precedence on our side that validates this argument."

Walker County school superintendent Damon Raines says the dinner is simply that, a hot meal.  The kids are in and out in usually 15 minutes and no religious message is conveyed.  A misunderstanding Raines is ready to put behind him.

"Some of those things they are quoting that we are having on those campuses and what the kids are seeing I think they have blown it out of proportion," says Raines.

Next door, would be sports rivals in Catoosa County are actually showing support for Ridgeland.  Boynton Baptist Church voted last week to display a sign that reads: "We stand by Ridgeland."

Youth pastor Marty Green says adjoining communities need to pull together.  "I don't think it should be an issue at all. The church is part of the community and if the church wants to help, I think it should."

Raines says, "We don't want it to be a distraction and I feel like it is a distraction from our real goal."

Raines says that goal is educating kids and taking the heat off of coach Mark Mariakis who is at the center of the prayer issue.  The other concern is the cost if this reaches litigation.

Raines says right now he isn't discussing a price tag.  "It could be a financial burden," says Raines. "We try to be a good steward of the taxpayers' money."

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