Supreme Court protects prayer in case with football coach

by Summer Lane

Photo: Adobe Stock

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled to protect freedom of speech in America on Monday in a 6-3 ruling, finding that the Bremerton School District violated petitioner and former high school football coach Joseph Kennedy’s right to pray on the field after football games.

According to the ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, the court found that “respect for religious expressions is indispensable to life in a free and diverse Republic.”

According to a report from CBS, Joseph Kennedy was fired from his job in Washington at Bremerton High School for praying on the field after football games. The school district reportedly warned him to cease praying after games, and Kennedy was eventually placed on administrative leave.

CBS further reported that Kennedy did not reapply for his job at the high school and sued the district in 2016 for violating his right to free speech.

The court stated in its syllabus:

“Respect for religious expressions is indispensable to life in a free and diverse Republic. Here, 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. Mr. Kennedy is entitled to summary judgment on his religious exercise and free speech claims.”

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered the majority opinion, in which he was joined by Justices Roberts, Thomas, Alito and Barrett. Kavanaugh joined as well, excepting Part III-B, according to the opinion. Justices Thomas and Alito filed concurring opinions.

Justice Gorsuch additionally wrote in the court’s majority opinion, “The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.”

Justice Sotomayor dissented, with Breyer and Kagan joining the dissent.

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