After the regressive overturning of Roe V. Wade, the US Supreme Court sided in favor of high school coach and former Washington State University coach Joe Kennedy in that his firing from the Bremerton School District violated his First Amendment rights.
The school district refused to let Kennedy pray at midfield immediately after games. The case was complicated because the religious freedoms of the coach, who holds a level of power over the student players, were cross-examined with the same rights of the students who don’t want to feel pressured to participate.
What ultimately went in Kennedy’s favor was the fact that he didn’t force anyone to join in. That is what makes this supreme court decision different from the Engle V. Vitale decision in 1962, which banned mandatory prayer by students in public schools.
The coach and his attorneys at First Liberty Institute, a Christian legal group, celebrated the decision. “Just like in all my football games, I just threw my arms up, you know, ‘touchdown,’” Kennedy said. He described the seven years since the dispute began as being tough on his family but “absolutely worth it.”
In an interview on Fox News, Kennedy said, “I think every American should have the same freedoms. The first amendment is very clear, and I think it’s awesome.”
Kelly Shackelford, President and Chief Executive Officer of First Liberty Institute, who is seen sitting next to Kennedy in the Fox News interview, stated that Kennedy “didn’t ask for any money… all he wanted was his job as the football coach and to be able to say that 15 to 20-second silent prayer after the game.”
The supreme court judges voted 6-3 on political lines.
After the decision, an opinion piece from NY Daily News rhetorically asks the readers, “What if Coach Kennedy were Muslim?” And “Would they tolerate atheist proclamations?” The opinion piece concluded, “The decision in the Kennedy case undercuts these principles by implicitly preferring religion over non-religion and mainstream Christianity over other faiths… The last thing we need is even further division along religious lines.”