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High Court Expected to Rule in Case of Football Coach Who Was Fired for Silently Praying on Field

06-23-2022
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Former Washington state high school football Coach Joe Kennedy. (Image credit: First Liberty Institute)

The Supreme Court is expected to rule by the end of the month in the case of a Washington state high school football coach who was fired from his job for silently praying on the field after games. 

The court heard his case in April.

Coach Joe Kennedy has been battling the Bremerton School District since 2015. The district claimed that his actions violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. 

As CBN News previously reported, Kennedy received praise from multiple players, and even opposing team members, for having the courage to show his Christian faith. 

However, school officials claimed that those prayers might give the appearance that the district approved of Coach Kennedy's public prayers, creating a potential endorsement of religion. They eventually fired Kennedy, who calls that a violation of his right to free speech.

Attorneys with Liberty Counsel revealed that "it appears the Justices were skeptical of the school district's claim that Coach Kennedy's speech was government speech." 

In his argument, Kennedy contended that his "brief, quiet prayer" at the 50-yard line was protected by the First Amendment. 

Liberty Counsel pointed out that the Constitution protects prayer and both public school teachers and their students "do not 'shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.'"

"Today, although not crystal clear, a majority of Justices appeared to lean in favor of Coach Kennedy. The attorney for Bremerton High School had a difficult time responding to Justice Gorsuch's question about whether a coach doing the sign of the cross was government speech which the district could restrict. Justice Thomas and others pressed the question of whether the district would censor a person kneeling for non-religious reasons," Liberty Counsel reports.

After years of legal battles, Kennedy explained how much he misses the young men that he got to mentor for nearly a decade.

"It's so hard because you love these kids and you love the families. This is part of life that is most real and you end of losing all of that over something like this. You still try to make sense of it ... it doesn't make any sense," Kennedy stated.

Faith and Liberty ministry held a live broadcast as the High Court heard the case. Participants prayed for religious freedom and freedom of speech.

 

Kennedy's case has attracted nationwide attention from the media, Hall of Fame coaches and players, and even former President Donald Trump. 

In Jan. 2020, Trump invited Kennedy to the Oval Office as he announced new actions to protect religious freedom in America's public schools.

Liberty Counsel's Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, "This case is an opportunity for the High Court to affirm that every American has the right to engage in individual religious expression without fear of punishment. Banning a coach from silently praying after a game is illogical and unconstitutional."

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