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'Heavy-Handed Government Trampling on Our Rights': 24 AGs Urge Supreme Court to Vindicate Praying Football Coach

Coach Joe Kennedy. (Image credit: First Liberty Institute)

A group of 24 Republican attorneys general from across the country are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to "uphold the constitutional rights" of a Washington state high school football coach who was fired for praying with students after games.

The coalition, which is led by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylorare, filed an amicus brief on Tuesday, urging the high court to review a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals against coach Joseph Kennedy.

Kennedy was fired from Bremerton High School in 2015 for taking a knee in brief, personal prayer on the field after football games. CBN News previously reported that school officials worried those prayers might give the appearance that the district approved of Kennedy's public prayers, creating a potential endorsement of religion. So they fired him.

In March, three judges on the Court of Appeals ruled that Kennedy's 50-yard-line post-game prayers were a violation of the Constitution's establishment clause. 

But Kennedy's advocates argue this case is about the First Amendment and American religious liberty. 

"Americans do not abandon their religious liberties at the door of their workplace," AG Brnovich said in a statement. "Especially at this moment in our country's history, it is imperative that heavy-handed government be restrained from trampling on our rights to personal expression as recognized and protected by the First Amendment." 

The amicus brief argues that permitting the Bremerton School District to justify its discriminatory actions under the establishment clause will create future problems for public employers and employees. 

"The Ninth Circuit's conclusion threatens to make everything a public employee does while on the clock into government speech," Paxton stated. "In turn, that would require public employers to control their employees' every word in order to avoid liability."  

Back in 2019, Justice Samuel Alito wrote regarding Kennedy's case, "the Ninth Circuit's understanding of the free speech rights of public school teachers is troubling and may justify review in the future."

During an interview with Fox News in February, Kennedy said he will continue to fight in hopes that others don't have to experience the same hardship.

"The First Amendment really means a lot to me and it is really terrible today in America that somebody can be fired just for expressing their faith," Kennedy noted. "So I am just fighting so that no one else ever has to go through this and doesn't have to choose between their job and their faith."


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