High School Coach Goes All the Way to Supreme Court to Pray After Game
Joe Kennedy was an assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in Washington. After football games ended, he customarily kneeled on the turf and said a prayer. Some players would join him in his prayer and kneel with him. In 2015, the Bremerton School Board asked him to refrain from any demonstrative on-field prayer. Officials said they were concerned that tolerating Kennedy’s public post-game prayers would suggest government endorsement of religion, in violation of the separation of church and state. When Coach Kennedy did not conform to these standards, his contract was not renewed.
Coach Kennedy hired lawyers and took his case to the courts. He lost and appealed. He lost and appealed… This process was repeated for 8 long years. The US Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in 2022 (they only hear about 100 cases each year), and on June 27, 2022, they delivered their 6-3 decision in favor of Coach Kennedy. The court ruled that the school district violated Kennedy’s First Amendment right. They declared that his personal religious observance could not be restricted by the government. Kennedy was reinstrated as an assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in 2023.
Joe’s Perspective: We have a federal government with checks and balances. In this case, the defendant believed that his rights were violated and took his case to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. The 9 judges heard the case and made a ruling, which sets a precedent that any coach or student can publically pray at public school sporting events. Prayer is protected by the Constitution. My guess is this ruling angered a lot of people. Likewise, a lot of people were thrilled by this outcome. As a neutral observer, I believe the Supreme Court provided the correct ruling. Coach Kennedy did not force others to join his prayer and he did not attempt to proselytize others. This feels like free speech, and therefore, it should not be infringed upon by a department of the government.
Your Turn: If you were a justice on the Supreme Court, how would you have ruled and why?