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N. Ga. school system defends coach after prayer complaint

10:29 AM, Aug 30, 2012   |    comments
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ROSSVILLE, Ga. -- Officials at a northwest Georgia high school are defending its football team's practice of having student-led prayers and church-held meals before games.

Walker County Superintendent Damon Raines said at a Wednesday news conference that Ridgeland High School isn't violating the First Amendment rights of the players and that its football team will continue having the prayers and meals.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation accused football coach Mark Mariakis of taking athletes to church where a Christian message was preached, of leading postgame prayers and pressuring team members to attend a Christian football camp, along with other accusations.

Raines said he believes the coach is only using motivational speeches to encourage the athletes to display upstanding character on and off the field.

(Associated Press)

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