Supreme Court to Decide Coach's Right to Pray After Game
Since 2008, Joseph Kennedy, a coach for a Bremerton, Washington High School football team, would take a knee and say a prayer with his players at midfield at the end of each game. In 2015, a comment from another coach "prompted the athletic director, and later the superintendent, to order the coaching staff to stop praying with students," according to NPR. "Kennedy stopped his locker room prayers, but returned to praying right after the game, mainly at away games, with little fanfare."
By the time of the big homecoming game, Kennedy had retained lawyers from the First Liberty Institute, and in a letter to school officials, they said that the coach had a constitutional right to pray on the 50-yard line at the end of the game. "I fought and defended the Constitution, and the thought of leaving the field of battle where the guys just played and having to go and hide my faith because it was uncomfortable to somebody — that's just not America," he said in an interview with NPR.
"In the leadup to the game, Kennedy embraced his newfound celebrity, making repeated media appearances. 'It was a zoo,' said John Polm, Bremerton High's principal, describing the homecoming game. Attendance doubled, five TV stations showed up, and a group of Satanists unsuccessfully attempted to take the field to perform their own competing ritual," writes Nina Totenberg for NPR.
The Supreme Court ponders the right to pray on the 50-yard line (Nina Totenberg - NPR)
"The Supreme Court’s conservative justices seemed sympathetic Monday to a former high school football coach who lost his job after leading postgame prayers at midfield," writes Robert Barnes for The Washington Post, "but the path to a decision is complicated by both the coach’s actions and the school district’s purported reason for disciplining him."
Joseph Kennedy’s lawyer said the assistant coach was asking only for a private moment to take a knee and express gratitude to God on the gridiron after a game, while lawyers representing the Bremerton School District said officials had an obligation to protect students from being coerced into religious activity they did not want, according to The Washington Post.
Supreme Court majority sympathetic to coach who prayed at midfield (Robert Barnes - The Washington Post)
"At issue is whether the Bremerton, Wash., school district could regulate the coach’s religious expression because he was on the job or his prayers might appear to be endorsed by the district or coerce students to participate," writes Mark Walsh for Education Week about the April 25 arguments in the Kennedy s. Bremerton School District.
Key Takeaways From Praying-Coach Case While Supreme Court Deliberates (Mark Walsh - Education Week)