Featured Image
Coach Joe Kennedyscreenshot/YouTube/First Liberty Institute

LifeSiteNews is on the cutting edge of life and family news reporting. Support our Summer Campaign by giving a gift of support today: 

WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 Monday in favor of Joseph Kennedy, a high school football coach who was fired by Washington’s Bremerton School District in 2015 after he silently prayed on a school field after a football game.

Kennedy had prayed on the field without issue for seven years, until the coach of an opposing team told Bremerton High School’s principal that Kennedy had asked the coach’s players to join in a post-game prayer, prompting a district investigation into Kennedy’s compliance with the school board’s religious policy.

After the school district told Kennedy his prayer may not have participation from students, he sent a letter from his attorney, Hiram Sasser, to the district informing them he would “resume his practice of saying a private, postgame prayer at the 50-yard line, since such speech would be protected by both the Free Speech Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution.

At subsequent games, Kennedy “waited until players were singing their fight song” after their games, and knelt at the 50-yard line to pray with a bowed head, where he was “joined by players from both teams, members of the media and the public.” He was thereafter placed on administrative leave by the school district, which cited a “failure to follow district policy.” Kennedy filed suit against the Bremerton School District in August 2016 but was ruled against in several successive decisions before his case reached the nation’s highest court.

In its Monday decision, the Supreme Court held that the “Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect an individual engaging in a personal religious observance from government reprisal,” that Kennedy’s prayers constituted private speech rather than government speech associated with his official duties, and that ultimately a “government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a personal religious observance, based on a mistaken view that it has a duty to suppress religious observances even as it allows comparable secular speech. The Constitution neither mandates nor tolerates that kind of discrimination.”

Writing for the majority, conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that the “Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.”

Left-wing Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissenting opinion, joined by fellow liberals Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. She claimed that allowing the prayer “elevates one individual’s interest in personal religious exercise, in the exact time and place of that individual’s choosing, over society’s interest in protecting the separation between church and state,” despite the fact that the majority opinion was decided in part on the fact that the government already “allows comparable secular speech.”

The case follows a string of momentous Supreme Court victories from conservatives, most notably the long-awaited overturn of Roe v. Wade, which forced all fifty states to allow most abortions, and an affirmation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Leftists have responded with anger, violence, and calls to defy or limit the Supreme Court.


Commenting Guidelines
LifeSiteNews welcomes thoughtful, respectful comments that add useful information or insights. Demeaning, hostile or propagandistic comments, and streams not related to the storyline, will be removed.

LSN commenting is not for frequent personal blogging, on-going debates or theological or other disputes between commenters.

Multiple comments from one person under a story are discouraged (suggested maximum of three). Capitalized sentences or comments will be removed (Internet shouting).

LifeSiteNews gives priority to pro-life, pro-family commenters and reserves the right to edit or remove comments.

Comments under LifeSiteNews stories do not necessarily represent the views of LifeSiteNews.