Joe Kennedy: An American once again free to pray,
when and where he wishes.
Bring a gun to a knife fight: In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court today ruled in favor of high school coach Joe Kennedy, who was fired by the Bremerton School District in Washington because he choose to kneel and pray quietly on the football field at the end of each game.
Joe Kennedy was a junior varsity head coach and varsity assistant coach with the Bremerton School District in Washington from 2008 to 2015. He began the practice of reciting a post-game prayer by himself, but eventually students started joining him. According to court documents, this evolved into motivational speeches that included religious themes. After an opposing coach brought it to the principal’s attention, the school district told Kennedy to stop. He did, temporarily, then notified the school that he would resume the practice.
The situation garnered media attention, and when Kennedy announced that he would go back to praying on the field, it raised security concerns. When he did pray after the game, a number of people stormed the field in support.
The school district then offered to let Kennedy pray in other locations before and after games, or for him to pray on the 50-yard line after everyone else had left the premises, but he refused, insisting that he would continue his regular practice. After continuing the prayers at two more games, the school district placed Kennedy on leave.
He eventually lost the job when the school district refused to renew his contract.
You can read the Supreme Court’s ruling here [pdf].
Initially Kennedy was holding locker room prayer sessions and postgame religious talks, actions by a public school teacher that are certainly inappropriate. However, when the district demanded these stop he did so.
Subsequently he began praying on the field, alone and silent, after games. This action did attract some students to join him, but since he did not require participation he was violating no one’s rights, nor was he acting as a government agent at that time.
The opinion stated that his words were not “pursuant to a government policy,” he was not “seeking to convey a government-created message,” and he was not acting in the normal scope of his duties because the game was over, he was not providing instruction or game strategy, and that he prayed at a time when he was free to do other things like “attend briefly to personal matters.”
Yet, it was for this action the school district removed him, not the earlier prayer sessions in the locker room. And it was for this reason the court ruled in Kennedy’s favor.
The issue of religious prayer by government officials has for years been a difficult one. At what point does that prayer become in effect an established government religion? For decades the courts have increasingly banned any religious action of any kind in any government facility, sometimes for things as minor as a government worker wearing a necklace with a cross on it.
Essentially, the pendulum had swung absurdly to the point of outlawing religious speech in any venue where the government was involved, which in today’s America is practically everywhere. At the same time the courts have also increasingly ruled that no one can ban any government worker from proselytizing all kinds of secular political speech, even when acting as a government worker.
The anti-religious bias in these rulings is obvious, and was recognized by the court:
The [school d]istrict suggests that any visible religious conduct by a teacher or coach should be deemed — without more and as a matter of law — impermissibly coercive on students. A rule that the only acceptable government role models for students are those who eschew any visible religious expression would undermine a long constitutional tradition in which learning how to tolerate diverse expressive activities has always been “part of learning how to live in a pluralistic society.” No historically sound understanding of the Establishment Clause begins to “mak[e] it necessary for government to be hostile to religion” in this way.
As expected, the three Democrat justices dissented, and did so with that hostility to religion quite evident in their dissent. The left side of American politics today has become entirely intolerant to any public expression of any dissenting views, and works hard in every way to make those expressions illegal or banned, sometimes by outright acts of violence. It now appears that, at least for now, these totalitarians no longer have an ally in the Supreme Court.
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