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U.S. Supreme Court favors Bremerton coach who prayed on soccer field

The US Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Bremerton football coach who was fired for praying on the 50-yard line after every game.

Cue the Satanists.

Seven years after assistant football coach Joe Kennedy made headlines for refusing to stop praying on the field, the Supreme Court has sided with him. In a 6-3 decision, which aligned with conservative/liberal lines, the court said that as an individual, Kennedy should have been allowed to pray on the football field.

According to the Court’s opinion, written by Judge Neil Gorsuch:

“Joseph Kennedy lost his job coaching high school football because he knelt in midfield after games to offer a silent prayer of thanks. Mr. Kennedy prayed during a period when employees of the school were free to talk with a friend, call for a dinner reservation, check email, or take care of other personal matters. He offered his prayers quietly while his students were busy. Yet , the Bremerton School District disciplined him anyway.It did so because it believed that anything less could lead a reasonable observer to conclude (incorrectly) that it approved of Mr. Kennedy’s religious beliefs. This reasoning was flawed.

…. The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and repression, for religious and non-religious views.”

The court also acknowledges that players and others began praying with the coach, even in the locker room, and that Kennedy also incorporated religious messages into motivational speeches.

The Court concluded:

“Respect for religious expressions is essential to life in a free and diverse Republic, whether those expressions take place in sanctuary or on the land, and whether they are manifested in speech or with bowed head. Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in brief, personal, silent religious observance doubly protected by the freedom of exercise and freedom of speech clauses of the First Amendment to unearth and suppress.”

In other words, the court held that the district was wrong; Coach Kennedy’s prayers were private and players were not required to join him, and so there was no conflict for the district to resolve by firing him.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor is the author of the dissenting opinion and argued that the Court has always ruled in the past that “school officials leading the prayer are constitutionally prohibited.”

Sotomayor says the majority justices misinterpreted the facts and ignored that Kennedy, as a public school employee, was often joined in the field by students.

Sotoymayor further states that the majority failed to “recognize the unique pressures students face when participating in school-sponsored activities.” This decision does a disservice to schools and the young citizens they serve, as well as to our nation’s longstanding commitment to the separation of church and state. I respectfully disagree. »

Bremerton coach prays on the football pitch

Kennedy used to pray on the football field for years before causing a stir in 2015. The prayers caught the attention of district officials who stepped in to uphold a line between religion and government. As a public employee, the Bremerton School District asked him to quit because it could be construed as government endorsement of a religion. Kennedy was joined on the field by students and players. He says he didn’t invite anyone and it was their choice to join him in the prayer. Although the Supreme Court’s opinion notes that the three games the district cites in Kennedy’s dismissal, no player joined him on the court in prayer.

After Kennedy chose not to stop praying after games, local Satanists also started attending games and held on-field ceremonies – because when you open the door to a religion on government property, they everything come.

After his dismissal, the First Liberty Institute took on the case. The district’s decision was upheld all the way to the Supreme Court, which chose to go in another direction and favor Kennedy’s position of praying on the court.

More Updates in KUOW’s Today So Far Blog

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