The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an atheist activist group based in Madison, Wisconsin, is taking a football coach to task, claiming that he violated the First Amendment by allowing local churches to prepare meals for team members. The organization sent a letter to Walker County Schools in LaFayette, Georgia, demanding that officials immediately investigate Mark Mariakis, the Ridgeland High School coach.
While the atheists want an examination into alleged pre-game foods that churches purportedly prepared for the players, the FFRF also addressed claims that Coach Mariakis prayed with the football players, used Bible verses in motivational speeches and on team shirts and took part on the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a faith-based organization.
According to the FFRF, a local individual complained about the food that the teens are given on game days. The group also said that a minister typically delivers remarks to the players that focus upon Christianity as well — another violation that has the activists fired up.
“Taking public school football teams to church, even for a meal, is unconstitutional,” FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel wrote in a letter to the district. “This program is an egregious violation of the Establishment Clause and must cease immediately.”
Walker County school officials released a statement claiming that they received the letter and are reviewing its claims. Richie White, youth director at Chattanooga Valley Baptist Church, one of the houses of worship that provides meals to the team, voiced his surprise over the FFRF’s complaint.
“It would be interesting to see what part of the Constitution we violated by simply offering a meal to fellow Americans. These are kids from our area that we do love and we do care about,” White explained.
“We as Christians don’t force our religion on anyone,” he added.
As is typically the case with FFRF scenarios, the individual complaining about the practice is currently remaining anonymous. While it may be a parent, it could very well be a student who finds him or herself uncomfortable with church involvement with the team.
The team’s official Facebook page doesn’t mention the FFRF directly (although an article about the controversy was shared with the teams fans), but on Wednesday, an image of the team praying and a separate post reading, “Yes we pray. Who doesn’t? We aren’t afraid to show that we love God!,” was published.
(H/T: FOX News Radio)