(BLP) – In a Monday verdict, the Supreme Court upheld Coach Joseph Kennedy’s right to worship in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District.
In case you missed it, Kennedy was let go from his school district in 2015 for holding a “private prayer” on the field after every football game that was in view of students. This was because the public high school argued that the prayer was a clear conflict of “church and state.”
Kennedy is a Marine veteran and served as an assistant football coach for the Bremerton High School (BHS) varsity team. He led a “tradition of kneeling and praying after games” in which some students eventually joined him.
In 2015, a school administrator addressed the issue with the coach after an opposing team complained, the Daily Wire reported.
Per the ruling, Kennedy had his First Amendment rights violated after he was placed on administrative leave by the school district and banned from participating in the football program. The majority opinion was authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch.
“SCOTUS sides with a high school football coach in a First Amendment case about prayer at the 50-yard-line,” SCOTUS Blog tweeted Monday morning. “In a 6-3 ruling, SCOTUS says the public school district violated the coach’s free speech and free exercise rights when it barred him from praying on the field after games.” The case was ruled along ideological lines.
SCOTUS sides with a high school football coach in a First Amendment case about prayer at the 50-yard-line. In a 6-3 ruling, SCOTUS says the public school district violated the coach's free speech and free exercise rights when it barred him from praying on the field after games.
— SCOTUSblog (@SCOTUSblog) June 27, 2022
Gorsuch wrote: “Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance doubly protected by the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment. And the only meaningful justification the government offered for its reprisal rested on a mistaken view that it had a duty to ferret out and suppress.”
“Religious observances even as it allows comparable secular speech. The Constitution neither mandates nor tolerates that kind of discrimination,” he continued.
The vote was 6 to 3, with only the liberal members of the Supreme Court dissenting. From the decision, SCOTUS determined that “there is no conflict between the constitutional commands of the First Amendment in this case. There is only the ‘mere shadow’ of a conflict, a false choice premised on a misconstruction of the Establishment Clause.”
Moreover: “Respect for religious expressions is indispensable to life in a free and diverse Republic. Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a personal religious observance, based on a mistaken view that it has a duty to suppress religious observances even as it allows comparable secular speech.”