As the United States struggles through Joe Biden’s failing presidency, the idea that “elections matter” is becoming more relevant as the current SCOTUS, with three Trump-nominated Justices now on the bench, is taking up more cases that appeal to traditional Americans.
In a case that the court previously turned away, Republican lawmakers and a group founded by former Vice President Mike Pence filed amicus briefs this week asking the Supreme Court to take up the case of a Washington state high school football coach who said he was fired from his job for praying on the 50-yard line after a game.
The issue comes down to Amendment 1 of the Constitution of the United States of America.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The Supreme Court decided this time to take up this important first amendment case and agreed to hear arguments this term.
Joseph Kennedy, an assistant coach at Bremerton High School, said he was “called” to offer private prayers to players and coaches of both teams in 2015, according to the Washington Post. An opposing coach filed a complaint about Kennedy’s postgame prayers and Kennedy and the school district went on to battle “over accommodations of his religious exercise.”
School officials were worried the prayers might give the impression the district approved of Kennedy’s prayers, arguing it could be seen as a violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment establishment clause, according to SCOTUSblog.
Kennedy ended up not returning to the school after 2015, as he worked as an assistant coach on a contract that was evaluated at the end of each year. His legal battle with the Bremerton school district has intensified since then.
Kennedy has lost twice before the U.S.Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in split decisions. His case reached the Supreme Court in 2019, but justices declined to take it on, saying the lower courts had more to decide. However, four conservative justices indicated that they were interested in the issue and could hear the case at a later date.
Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. questioned the Ninth Circuit’s decision, saying that its language could “be understood to mean that a coach’s duty to serve as a good role model requires the coach to refrain from any manifestation of religious faith — even when the coach is plainly not on duty. I hope that this is not the message that the Ninth Circuit meant to convey.” Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh backed Alito Jr.
Kennedy will be represented by religious legal group First Liberty Institute, and Bremerton by Americans United for Separation of Church and State when the case is heard before the Supreme Court.
“No teacher or coach should lose their job for simply expressing their faith while in public,” said Kelly Shackelford, president and chief executive of First Liberty. “By taking this important case, the Supreme Court can protect the right of every American to engage in private religious expression, including praying in public, without fear of punishment.”
Americans United, however, say Kennedy and his legal team have misrepresented facts about the case.
“This case is not about a school employee praying silently during a private religious devotion,” Laser said in a statement. “Rather, this case is about protecting impressionable students who felt pressured by their coach to participate repeatedly in public prayer, and a public school district that did right by its students and families.”
This case will have huge ramifications for how the courts should understand the extent to which our 1A rights must be protected, especially in an increasingly hostile culture that is rejecting God and those who believe openly.
I am praying for a 6-3 ruling for the coach and his subsequent rehiring by the school, with 7 years of back pay.
Written By: Eric Thompson, host of the Eric Thompson Show.