Supreme Court sides with high school football coach who lost his job for praying after games

Washington — The Supreme Court on Monday dominated in favor of a former football coach for a high school in western Washington who lost his job after praying on the 50-yard-line after games.

The courtroom ruled 6-3 alongside ideological traces that the free train and free speech clauses of the First Amendment shield a person partaking in non secular expression. Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered the opinion for the bulk within the case, often called Kennedy v. Bremerton School District.

“The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike,” Gorsuch wrote. 

The dispute involving Joseph Kennedy, the previous Bremerton High School assistant football coach, stood on the intersection of the First Amendment’s institution clause and the free speech and free train clauses, as attorneys for Kennedy argued the school district’s punishment for his non secular expression violated his constitutional rights. The school district, in the meantime, warned Kennedy when it discovered of his postgame prayers that his actions possible violated the institution clause, which prohibits the federal government from endorsing a faith. 

The courtroom struggle involving Kennedy’s postgame prayers at midfield attracted a bevy of friend-of-the-court briefs, together with from former NFL gamers {and professional} and collegiate athletes who got here down on each sides of the controversy.

Writing for the liberal minority on Monday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated the Constitution doesn’t authorize public colleges to embrace Kennedy’s conduct, and wrote that almost all’s opinion rejects “longstanding concerns” surrounding authorities endorsement of faith.

“Official-led prayer strikes at the core of our constitutional protections for the religious liberty of students and their parents, as embodied in both the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment,” wrote Sotomayor, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. “The court now charts a different path, yet again paying almost exclusive attention to the Free Exercise Clause’s protection for individual religious exercise while giving short shrift to the Establishment Clause’s prohibition on state establishment of religion.”

Kennedy first started praying after football games in August 2008 following his first sport as coach of the Bremerton Knights. While his praying first started with the coach, alone, briefly thanking God after the ultimate whistle, gamers quickly started to hitch Kennedy after games, with participation various from week-to-week. At least one dad or mum stated his son “felt compelled to participate” out of concern he would lose enjoying time.

Praying Football Coach
Joseph Kennedy, a former assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Washington, poses for a photograph March 9, 2022, on the school’s football area. 

Ted S. Warren / AP

The prayers, too, advanced from temporary, non-public expressions of thanksgiving into motivational speeches with non secular references.

Kennedy’s observe of praying on the sphere continued with out situation for seven years. The Bremerton School District discovered what the coach was doing in September 2015 when an opposing crew’s coach instructed the high school’s principal that Kennedy requested his gamers to hitch him for the post-game prayer and he “thought it was pretty cool” that the district would enable such an exercise.

But the commentary sparked a yearslong battle between Kennedy and the school district, with the coach arguing he was partaking in constitutionally protected non secular expression, and defenders of the school district claiming the coach was performing as an agent of the state who, as a public school worker, violated the non secular freedom of scholars who felt strain to wish.

Kennedy stopped partaking in his postgame prayers after the district instructed him his talks with college students needed to be secular and his future non secular exercise needed to be separate from any pupil exercise, however he resumed the observe in October 2015.

The school district then punished Kennedy, inserting him on administrative go away for violating its directives, and Bremerton’s athletic director really useful he not be rehired for the next football season, citing a failure to observe district coverage and supervise student-athletes after games.

Kennedy selected to not reapply for his teaching position at Bremerton High School and sued the district in August 2016 for violating his First Amendment rights to free speech and free train of his religion.

CBS Reports | The Right’s Fight to Make America a Christian Nation


The ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the school district, and Kennedy appealed to the Supreme Court for the primary time. In 2019, the high courtroom rejected his case, with 4 of the courtroom’s conservative justices saying it was untimely for the courtroom to think about the authorized struggle.

After extra proceedings, Kennedy once more lost within the decrease courts. He requested the Supreme Court for a second time to listen to the case, and the justices agreed to take action in January.

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