Mariakis is at the center of a controversy over separation of church and state.
Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based group, says Mariakis has breached the First Amendment by allowing churches to serve meals and preach to the football team; holding prayers after games; placing scripture on team clothing; and holding Christian football camps in the summer. The foundation filed its complaint Aug. 21.
The Facebook page, called Support Coach Mariakis, is seeking a show of support during the Ridgeland High Panther’s first home game, which will be played Sept. 14. The page was started by recent Ridgeland graduates Adrian Hullander, Cole Chapman and Jared Deberry.
The predominant sentiment among the postings is praise for Mariakis’ dedication to faith and children, along with praying for him. Statewide support is flowing from Georgia and Tennessee, along with a few who have picked up on the story as it went national.
“Coach Mariakis is an example of what I think a football coach should be like,” wrote Matthew Daniel, a former team manager when Mariakis was assistant coach at Chattooga. “Never once did he ever force Christianity on anyone. Yes, he talked about the Lord very regularly during pre-game speeches, but everyone responded to it very positively.”
Another poster, Terry Davenport, wrote “Someone is shoving their version of the constitution down our throats like they say religion has been forced on them, for this I am sorry. Why can’t they see their conduct calls us to more prayer, faith tells us God can fix this.”
And Jan Wright had this to say: “A friend of mine said it best. ... ‘we don’t press them to pray, so they don’t need to press us not to pray.’”
As of Sunday afternoon, the page had 8,177 “likes.”
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