Supreme Court Set To Tackle Case Of High School Football Coach Who Prayed With Players On The Field

The Supreme Court on Monday will hear arguments in a case involving a high school football coach who had conducted post-game prayers with his team.

The Supreme Court on Monday will hear arguments in a case involving a high school football coach who had conducted post-game prayers with his team.

The case will have a significant impact on how the court views the separation of church and state and school prayer.

Joe Kennedy, a football coach at Bremerton High School in Washington, had been praying at the 50-yard line since 2008 and was frequently joined – voluntarily – by players from his team as well as the opposing teams.

The Political Insider wrote in 2017 that officials had taken issue with the practice and Kennedy agreed to keep praying by himself.

“I really tried to meet with the school halfway with everything,” the coach said in an interview with Fox News at the time.  

“They didn’t want me to pray with the kids, and I said, ‘That’s fine. Your rules. But I’m not going to give up my beliefs just because it made somebody feel uncomfortable,'” he explained. “So I agreed that I would just do it by myself on the 50 alone, the way it first started out.”

RELATED: 9th Circuit Rules That Coach Who Prayed Violated the Constitution

Supreme Court Will hear Arguments Regarding Football Coach and Prayer

The Seattle-area school district has offered a different take on what happened regarding the football coach and his prayers.

Bremerton High directed Kennedy to stop the practice and, according to them, rather than continue praying quietly, Kennedy orchestrated a highly publicized effort to promote his perceived right to a religious demonstration at a school event. 

He reportedly defied the school’s order and was placed on administrative leave. Kennedy did not reapply for his job after his contract ended in 2015.

The school claimed the prayers violated school policy that prohibited staff from encouraging students to engage in such activity and noted one athlete – an atheist – felt that not participating would negatively affect his playing time.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the school in 2017, ruling that praying on a school football field is unconstitutional.

“When Kennedy kneeled and prayed on the fifty-yard line immediately after games while in view of students and parents, he spoke as a public employee, not as a private citizen, and his speech therefore was constitutionally unprotected,” the 9th Circuit panel of judges wrote.

RELATED: Submitting to Government Doesn’t Mean Surrendering Constitutional Rights

‘Pretty Cool’

Remarkably, the entire conflict began when an opposing coach told the Bremerton High School principal that he thought it was “pretty cool” that the school allowed Kennedy to allow the prayer after the football coach asked if any opposing players wanted to join him.

The American Center for Law and Justice, led by Trump-allied lawyer Jay Sekulow, is backing Kennedy by suggesting the Supreme Court should right the wrongs of its landmark 1971 ruling in Lemon v. Kurtzman.

The case established a legal test for gauging church-state separation under the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

The separation of church and state is something that was never intended to remove religion from schools but is nonetheless cited in even the most mundane things atheists find offensive.

Like a coach praying, as many coaches and players have done across all levels of athletic competition for eons.

As former Senator Rick Santorum once wrote, “The idea of strict or absolute separation of church and state is not and never was the American model.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has argued in favor of the school, suggesting the Supreme Court should uphold the 9th Circuit ruling.

“Public schools must welcome students of all religions and those of none,” the group wrote in an amicus brief. “That obligation is compromised when school officials take it upon themselves to convey (whether intentionally or not) religious messages.”

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President Biden took a different view on the campaign trail in 2020, said he wished schools in America taught their students more about Islam.

“I wish we taught more in our schools about the Islamic faith,” he told supporters at a summit of Muslim voters. “I wish we talked about all the great confessional faiths. It’s one of the great confessional faiths.”

Islam should be taught in schools, but a football coach engaged in Christian prayers after a game? We can’t have that.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case on Monday. A decision will likely come sometime this summer.

Rusty Weiss has been covering politics for over 15 years. His writings have appeared in the Daily Caller, Fox... More about Rusty Weiss

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