Breaking: Supreme Court says coach can pray on field

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The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the First Amendment rights of a Bremerton, Wash. coach who prayed at the 50-yard line of the football field after football games.

Joseph Kennedy was a high school football coach in Bremerton, Wash. who routinely prayed after games by briefly kneeling on the field.

The 18-year Marine veteran was an assistant coach for the Bremerton High School varsity football team. He made a commitment to God that he would give thanks at the conclusion of each game for what the players had accomplished and for being part of their lives.

From his first game in 2008, Kennedy took a knee and quietly prayed for about 15-30 seconds. He continued to pray after every game for seven years. Students took notice and some started to join him.

In 2015, the school board received a complaint from someone on an opposing team and ordered Kennedy not to pray with students. But Kennedy continued. He asked for a religious accommodation, and against the orders of the school board, prayed after a game that year. The school district banned Kennedy from doing any “demonstrative religious activity” that is “readily observable to … students and the attending public.” His contract was recommended for non-renewal.

Kennedy wrote on Facebook, “I think I just might have been fired for praying.” Kennedy filed a lawsuit contending his First Amendment right were being curtailed.

“Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance doubly protected by the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority decision. “And the only meaningful justification the government offered for its reprisal rested on a mistaken view that it had a duty to ferret out and suppress.”

The decision said, “The Court holds that both the free exercise and free speech clauses protect Kennedy’s right to pray at midfield following high school football games.”

The decision was 6-3, with the court’s three Leftist members dissenting. It is seen as a victory for the rights of government workers to exercise their right of free speech.

The case was argued by First Liberty Institute, which filed the lawsuit against the school district, arguing that banning coaches from quietly praying, just because they can be seen by the public, is wrong and violates the Constitution.

First Liberty story about Kennedy’s case is at this link.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, and then the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, sided with the school district. First Liberty Institute appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In January 2022, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. 

The ruling is found at this link.

(Photo credit: First Liberty Institute)

11 COMMENTS

  1. The taking back of America continues and I bet liberals are losing their minds right about now. Stay tuned because this party is just getting started. It’s been a long time coming. These plans were put in place years ago and are just now bearing fruit.

  2. It was OK for players to “take a knee” so why did the left want to restrict that to players? Why do they hate coaches? You lefties wanted people on their knees; you got people on their knees. Though in not the cute little way you wanted. S.I.U.!

  3. Mixed feelings here.

    The Court made the correct ruling, but I’m curious the motives of the coach.

    I pray constantly but never feel the need to make a display of it. That’s between me and God.

    I’m always curious of the Tim Tebow types who feel the need for such ostentatious displays of faith. Who are you trying to convince? Me or yourself?

    Anyone can drop to their knees. All it proves is you can get on/off your knees. Proof of faith is how you live it every day.

    Still, correct decision. A solo act by a solo person done quickly with no obvious attempt at persuasion. After his work was concluded.

    • Masked, you are conflicted because you seek to judge the motives of the coach rather than his behavior. Such confusion often leads to such conflict. Are you really “curious” about the “Tebow types” who make “ostentatious” displays? Or do you find any public expression ostentatious? Perhaps the “Tebow types” are trying to convince others that there is no shame in faith in God. Let it go. If you must judge, then judge behaviors and not motives.

      • I’m not judging anyone at present. I was very clear I’m curious of his motives.

        Do you understand the definition of curious? Clearly you don’t read well, as I stated my distaste for clearly ostentatious displays of piety.

        Jimmy Swagart, James Bakker, Joel Osteen, the list of hair shirt promoting huckers waving bibles is a epic and legendary.

        Regarding Tebow: this will make your head explode, but while the man does live his faith, he comes off as a publicly seeking hypocrite.
        “Watch me pray, I’m so pious”. He lost as many people as he reached with his overdone 15 min on the field prayers.

        You are entitled to your opinions. You are also entitled to use paragraphs. Walls of text are annoying and speak to the lack of a cogent, we’ll though out point.

    • Hi Masked Avenger,
      I agree with you for once. I think that the best arbitrater on prayer is Jesus Christ. In Matthew 6:15 (NIV) he said:

      “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

      Is Christ’s admonitions relevant in this particular case?

  4. Outstanding!! Finally we see two highly principled decisions by the Supreme Court that are constitutionally based!! Hard to intimidate a marine!! Semipermanent fi and thank for setting an example f godl8ness that will reverberate thru the nation!!

  5. Trump’s Presidential legacy grows mightily as his Supreme Court appointees continue to show that they actually have read and understand our glorious Constitution. Even Roberts seems to have seen the light.

  6. Thanks to President Trump for listening when God showed him the way to prevent Progressivism from becoming America’s mandated national religion! And Thank You, God, for having saved us once more.

  7. Colin Kaepernick didn’t have to go to the US Supreme Court to take a knee. The Democrats and Left-Wing commies said he had “a right.”
    His “right” hit the team owners square in their pocketbooks.

  8. It is nice to put the left down a notch on basis human rights. We as a people do not belong to them as they use as the little people supporting their wealth by labor then they steal money anyway they can.

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