Ga. Coach’s Religious Outreach Sparks Controversy

A football coach at a Georgia public high school has created a stir for alleged serial violations of church-state separation.

According to a complaint by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Mark Mariakis, coach at Ridgeland High School in Rossville, Ga., took his team to churches for meals and proselytizing, led players in prayer, put Bible verses on team clothing and pressured his players to attend Christian football camps during the summer.

The complaint asks that Walker County Schools investigate the allegations immediately and take action to stop any future violations of the First Amendment.

Almost instantly after the complaint was made public, a Facebook community page called “Support Coach Maria­kis” popped up. At press time it had more than 10,800 “likes.”

One supporter posted on the page: “I really dont no (sic) wat (sic) happen from when I went 2 school we had prayer an (sic) sang the Pledge of Alligance (sic) wat (sic) has happen 2 people tryin (sic) 2 stop prayer anywhere God will judge those people.”  

Despite the outcry, Americans United Communications Associate Simon Brown said in AU’s “Wall of Separation” blog “that support means absolutely nothing in a court of law… Mariakis is clearly guilty of violating the First Amend­ment.”