UPDATE: SCOTUS Hearing and More...

Apr 26, 2022

Yesterday, Coach Joe Kennedy’s case was argued before the United States Supreme Court. His school district fired him for silently praying on the football field at the end of each game. We filed a brief in this critical case. Today, I will share highlights from the hearing. — Mat

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In 2008, Joe Kennedy began coaching a local high school football team in the state of Washington. He previously served 18 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, risking life and limb to protect our freedom.

Coach Kennedy made a vow with God. After his first game in August 2008, he walked to the 50-yard line—by himself—and took a knee. There, he quietly thanked the Lord for keeping each of the players safe, for fair play and for spirited competition.

After a few games, some of the team’s players asked if they could join the coach in prayer on the 50-yard line. “Of course,” he said. “It’s a free country!” He continued praying at the 50-yard line after games for seven years.

But in 2015, the Bremerton School District ordered Coach Kennedy to stop praying and placed him on “administrative leave.” The Bremerton School District did not renew Kennedy’s contract because he would not stop praying after every game.

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If you have been following Liberty Counsel for a while, you might remember that we defended a case remarkably similar to this in 2009. At that time, the Santa Rosa County, Florida, school district attempted to fire a high school principal, the school’s athletic director and a staff secretary when the athletic director said a short prayer for a meal at an adults-only booster club meeting.

We won that case after an all-day hearing on—get this—Constitution Day! Like the Santa Rosa School District, Bremerton School District’s stance is unconstitutional.

On January 18 of this year, I argued before the Supreme Court in defense of Camp Constitution, which was censored by the City of Boston over the word “Christian.” In that case, the government argued the private speech of Camp Constitution was actually “government speech.” We expect to win that case and will have a decision by the end of June.

Coach Kennedy’s case is the same song, different verse, as the Camp Constitution case. The motivation in both cases is the same—government censorship of religious viewpoints.

Would the school censor a coach for kneeling on the sideline when a player is injured on the field? To censor these private acts ONLY if the government deemed them to be religious is viewpoint discrimination and demonstrates hostility toward religion.

In Court Monday, most Justices appeared to lean in favor of Coach Kennedy. The attorney for Bremerton High School had a difficult time responding to Justice Gorsuch’s question about whether a coach doing the sign of the cross was government speech. Justice Thomas and others pressed the question of whether the district would censor a person kneeling for nonreligious reasons.

Justice Alito then asked if a school could fire an employee simply because the employee is “very, very visibly religious.”

Justice Thomas asked Bremerton attorneys if the coach would have been fired if he had taken a knee to protest racism, as opposed to praying.

The school district is represented by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a group that seeks to remove anything religious from public life. This radical group filed briefs against us in the Camp Constitution case and in every church case in which we challenged COVID restrictions. Thankfully, we have beaten them at every turn.

The U.S. Constitution simply does not allow any government agency—including local school districts—to discriminate against religious viewpoints.

The Supreme Court will deliver its decisions on the Camp Constitution and Coach Kennedy cases by the end of June. Please be in prayer!

These cases are an opportunity for the High Court to affirm that EVERY American has the right to engage in individual religious expression without fear of punishment. Banning a coach for silently praying after a game is unconstitutional.

BREAKING: We just received a restraining order in our military COVID shot cases on behalf of an Air Force Cadet who objects to the shot for religious reasons. I will update you soon!

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“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house” (Matt. 5:14-15).

Mat Staver
Founder and Chairman
Liberty Counsel



Sources:

“Home - Supreme Court of the United States.” Supremecourt.gov. 2017. Supremecourt.gov/.

Garnett, Nicole Stelle. “Religious Liberty Cases at the Supreme Court.” City Journal. April 25, 2022. City-journal.org/religious-liberty-cases-at-the-supreme-court.

Hurley, Lawrence, and Andrew Chung. 2022. “U.S. Supreme Court Conservatives Lean toward Football Coach in Prayer Case.” Reuters, April 25, 2022. Reuters.com/world/us/us-supreme-court-tackle-football-coachs-on-field-prayers-2022-04-25/.

‌O’Neil, Ted. “Supreme Court to Hear Case of Washington High School Football Coach Fired for Praying.” The Center Square, January 21, 2022. Thecentersquare.com/national/supreme-court-to-hear-case-of-washington-high-school-football-coach-fired-for-praying/article_f3f3c8e0-7aec-11ec-8f68-f75103ee780a.html.

“Principal and Athletic Director Face Criminal Charges for Prayer at Luncheon.” Liberty Counsel, August 10, 2009. Lc.org/newsroom/details/principal-and-athletic-director-face-criminal-charges-for-prayer-at-luncheon.

‌Quinn, Melissa. “Supreme Court Weighs Case of High School Coach Who Lost His Job after Praying on the Field.” CBS News. CBS Interactive Inc., April 25, 2022. Cbsnews.com/live-updates/supreme-court-live-stream-joe-kennedy-high-school-football-coach-prayer-case/.

“SCOTUS Is Full of Questions as Justices Consider Case of Praying Football Coach.” 2022. Law & Crime, April 25, 2022. Lawandcrime.com/supreme-court/scotus-is-full-of-questions-as-justices-consider-case-of-praying-football-coach/.‌

‌“Supreme Court Appears Favorable to Coach Kennedy Case.” Liberty Counsel, April 25, 2022. Lc.org/newsroom/details/042522-supreme-court-appears-favorable-to-coach-kennedy-case.

“Supreme Court of the United States,” April 25, 2022. Supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/2021/21-418_j4ek.pdf.

“U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Religious Viewpoint Discrimination.” 2022. Liberty Counsel. Lc.org/newsroom/details/012722-us-supreme-court-to-decide-religious-viewpoint-discrimination.

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