Sunday, September 02, 2012

School Tells Atheists that Prayer is NOT Illegal

Wisconsin atheists have threatened to sue the Walker County schools in Georgia because it claims that the Ridgeland High School football coach, Mark Mariakis, is a Christian who allows team prayer (led by students) and allows local churches to provide pre-game meals to the team. The school has replied that there's nothing unconstitutional going on, and that all traditions will continue despite the atheists' complaint.

For background, read
Prayer in America: Hidden Faith, or Public? and also read Missouri Votes to Bring Prayer Back to School, Countering Atheists

-- From "Walker County school superintendent responds by letter to Freedom from Religion Foundation" posted at Rome News-Tribune 8/31/12

Walker County superintendent of schools Damon Raines sent a two-page response letter on Thursday to the Freedom From Religion Foundation [FFRF, of Madison, WI], which last week alleged First Amendment violations by the school system.

“The Walker County Board of Education feels that we are in compliance with all federal and state laws and will continue to monitor and scrutinize areas that are considered questionable,” Raines said.

“We will still continue to have pre-game meals in the manner that we have,” Raines said. “We have a large amount of community support in Walker County and we are proud of that tradition. There will be certain areas of (pre-game meals) that we will take into consideration and if we have to change certain practices then we will.”

He also addressed the allegation about football player attendance at a football camp run by a Christian ministry. Players receive a bunk, meals and a practice field. “There is no religious activity happening at that camp,” Raines said.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Superintendent: No laws broken by Ridgeland coach" by Matt Ledger, The Walker County Messenger 8/31/12

“Your complaints are taken very seriously, and each enumerated complaint stated in your correspondence has been carefully reviewed,” Raines wrote to [FFRF's Andrew] Seidel in the letter, which was sent Thursday. “Walker County School System is concerned that each person within the system (student and employee) is afforded his or her constitutional rights.”

“No basis could be found to support your statement that coach Mariakis made fun of the Mormon religion or any religion,” Raines said.

Raines maintains that student-led prayer is allowed by the Constitution, but “will not be conducted during an impermissible time,” such as instructional time.

Raines also said that employees can participate in religious activities when it is outside the scope of their responsibility, even if it is on school property.

The allegations have brought a tidal wave of supporters that validate the hard work of school system employees and the “excellent football program headed by coach Mariakis,” Raines said.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Ridgeland High School football team plays amid prayer scrutiny" by Joy Lukachick, Chattanooga Times Free Press 9/1/12

. . . some fans [at Friday's game] traded in their black team shirts for a new one that displayed a player kneeling surrounded by the words "Take a knee and pray with me."

Mariakis supporters believe the fight at Ridgeland High is bigger than one coach, one team and one small town.

It's about challenging misinterpretation of the constitution, said Neal Brown, a local chaplain and pastor.

It's about supporting a way of life, said Erica Harris, a mom of a football player.

Some Christians and community members agree that there is a line between honoring God and not forcing religion on others. But if it's taken too far, nobody can enjoy their religious rights, said Jennifer Henry, a mom of one of the players.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Ga. School District Says Football Coach Did Not Violate Church-State Separation" by Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter 8/30/12

Mathew D. Staver, founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel, which offered legal counsel should the debate go to court, told The Christian Post that there is no evidence Mariakis did anything wrong.

"There is no evidence at this point to suggest the coach has done anything wrong. He should be applauded for inspiring the players to be good sportsmen and good citizens," said Staver. "The Freedom From Religion Foundation is primarily a paper machine. The group writes a lot of letters, sues infrequently, and loses most of the time."

Public outcry in defense of Mariakis was found on social media, as multiple Facebook groups were created in support of the football coach. These included the open group "We Support Coach Mariakis!! Panther Nation!!" which has at present over 1,400 members and "Support Coach Mariakis," which in the past week has received over 10,000 likes.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.