UPDATE: Ridgeland's Mark Mariakis center of prayer controversy
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."
Supporters of Mariakis have started a Facebook page in support of the Ridgeland coach.
Earlier Thursday, a statement emailed to WRCB said:
"The Walker County School, System received an email notification dated Tuesday, August 21, 2012 ay 10:49 a.m. from Mr. Andrew L. Seidel representing Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. We are in receipt of this letter and are in the process of reviewing its contents."
(WRCB)--The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state-church watchdog group has written another letter to a Georgia school over complaints it has received about Ridgeland High School football coach Mark Mariakis.
The group has targeted the coach at Ridgeland High School as the primary focus of the complaints cited in a press release. Coach Mariakas survived brain cancer in 2008-2009, and is noted for being vocal about his faith. He has led the school to several regional titles.
FFRF halted school prayers at Soddy Daisy football games and graduations. Most recently, FFRF contacted the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga over inappropriate prayers at public school athletic events.
In an August 21 letter, FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel asked Walker County Schools Superintendent Damon Raines, to investigate complaints over practices by Mariakis. According to FFRF's local complainant, Ridgeland, like Soddy Daisy and UTC, conducts prayers at school football games, and in this case often organized or led by Mariakis.
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" and according to one church, "presented the Gospel of Jesus Christ" to the players.
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.
The first scheduled game for Ridgeland is August 31.