The Supreme Court has just announced that it will hear oral arguments in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District – the case of former high school football coach Joe Kennedy, who lost his job in 2015 after praying with his players after a game.
“No teacher or coach should lose their job for simply expressing their faith while in public,” stated First Liberty president and Kelly Shackelford Kennedy’s lawyer.
“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,” Shackelford added in a statement.
“We look forward to presenting the Coach’s case, which goes to the heart of the First Amendment, to the Justices,” said volunteer attorney Paul Clement, former US Solicitor General.
According to The Daily Wire, Kennedy plans to return to coaching soon.
“Six years away from the football field has been far too long. I am extremely grateful that the Supreme Court is going to hear my case and pray that I will soon be able to be back on the field coaching the game and players I love,” said Kennedy in a press statement.
CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Rachel Laser, shot back, stating: “No child attending public school should have to pray to play school sports. No student should ever be made to feel excluded – whether it’s in the classroom or on the football field – because they don’t share the religious beliefs of their coaches, teachers or fellow students.”
The Daily Wire first reported on this case in 2015, and again in 2019 when it failed to make it to the Supreme Court:
Kennedy was hired by Bremerton High School (BHS) in 2008 and fired in 2015, with a contract that “entrusted” him “to be a coach, mentor and role model for the student athletes,” according to court documents. He was expected to “exhibit sportsmanlike conduct at all times” and informed him that, as coach, he was “constantly being observed by others.”
Kennedy also led prayers with the team before and after games, but court documents note the tradition predated his employment and that his religion didn’t require him to lead such prayers, but did require him to give thanks after each game.
As Kennedy kneeled and prayed after each game, members of the team began to join him until a majority of the team was also praying. Members of the opposing team were also invited to join. Kennedy eventually began giving mid-field motivational speeches after the games that included religious messaging.