Churches Feed High School Football Players Before Games, Now School Facing Lawsuit

Rossville, Georgia is a small town (1.8 sq. mi.) of about 4100 residents.  It lies just across the Georgia – Tennessee border and is considered to be part of the Chattanooga metropolitan area.  The town is named after John Ross, a Cherokee chief who lived there until being forced to Oklahoma during the great Indian removal.  His log cabin is still there as a landmark.

Like most southern communities, high school football is king in Rossville, home of the Ridgeland High School Panthers.  It has been a tradition for some years now that the football team is fed a nice dinner before each game.  The dinners are provided by ten different local churches, who take turns feeding the team.  Their first game this year is scheduled for this Friday night and one local church is preparing to fix them dinner.

However, in a tradition that can only be likened to Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’, A Christmas Carol, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has threatened to file a lawsuit against Walker County Public Schools if the church is allowed to provide the meal for the football team.

In a letter dated August 21, 2012, addressed to Damon Raines, Superintendent of Schools, the FFRF states that the school and head football coach are violating the First Amendment and separation of state and church in several ways.  Those ways include:

“Taking public school football teams to church, even for a meal, is unconstitutional.”

“Coach prayers are both unconstitutional.”

“Using bible verses on team apparel and in team speeches is unconstitutional.”

“[Coach] Mariakis’ participation in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes”

“Pressuring public school students to attend a Christian football camp is unconstitutional.”

Their entire letter to school superintendent can be read here, but they conclude with the following:

“Conclusion

We ask that Walker County Schools commence an immediate investigation into the complaints alleged, and take immediate action to stop any and all violations of the First Amendment including:

  1. The pre-game dinner at churches.  The first scheduled game is August 31, 2012.  Mariakis must not be permitted to take players to a church at any time.
  2. Any WCS employee organization or participation in prayers at school events or activities.
  3. The use of bible verses on school equipment or paraphernalia or as a motivational tool.
  4. Violations of the Equal Access Act by WCS employees, including coaches and teachers.
  5. Mandating, pressuring, or recommending a religious camp or church attendance to public school.”

The Liberty Counsel has contacted the school board and offered their legal services free of charge.  Representing the Liberty Counsel, Richard Mast wrote the school board saying:

“Liberty Counsel disagrees with the overreaching assertion of FFRF.  Among other things, it is permissible for churches to voluntarily prepare meals for members of the high school football team, and for team members to eat them.  The Constitution does not demand the eradication of faith from public life, or that churches be prohibited from participation in the life of the local community.  A church has as much right as any other local civic organization to provide pregame meals to members and guests, even if they are a part of the local high school football team.  FFRF’s letter actually urges Districts to adopt harmful and counter-productive policies that would discriminate against religion, and which in turn would expose the district to civil liability.”

Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver commented on FFRF’s actions saying:

“This atheist group continues to lick stamps and send frivolous letters with militant zeal designed to hurt communities because of its anti-Christian fixation. Nothing in the Constitution requires communities to abandon common sense and create zones hostile to religion.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is quickly becoming one of the most anti-Christian organizations in the nation.  If it were up to them, they would re-write the First Amendment to read:

“Congress shall make no law respecting any religion, and shall prohibit the free exercise thereof;…”

They hate God.  They hate Jesus.  They hate the Bible.  They hate Christians.  They hate that America was founded as a Christian nation and are hell bent on eliminating everything they hate.  Christians need to stand up and help the Liberty Counsel fight this extreme anti-Christian organization.