The justices of the Supreme Court has chosen to hear the case of a former high school football coach from Washington state who was terminated in the wake of kneeling in prayer after football games.
Joseph Kennedy, who is a Marine veteran, was an assistant football coach for the varsity team and employed at Bremerton High School (BHS) back in 2008 when he began the tradition of kneeling and praying directly after games. In 2015 however, a school admin spoke about the issue with the coach in the wake of complaints from the opposing team.
“I think I just might have been fired for praying,” Kennedy would then take to Facebook to post his thoughts.
Tune in to https://t.co/mbVQNWAE0O at 8:45a CT. We'll be on the Court's steps and stream the argument. After the case is heard, join Facebook Live to hear from Paul Clement, Kelly Shackelford, and Coach Kennedy. It's a big day, and we want you to be part of it! pic.twitter.com/4YTsHaXlTR
— First Liberty Institute (@1stLiberty) April 25, 2022
In the wake of an investigation, Kennedy was put on administrative leave and summarily barred from “participating in any capacity in the BHS football program.”
First Liberty Institute, a non-profit conservative legal organization, stated in 2016 that they would be taking up Kennedy’s case, and managed to lose in both the district court and at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Then in 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court also denied the initial request, but a group of four justices– Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh– issued a statement expressing their concerns about the way that the school district, along with the lower courts, had handled the case about the First Amendment rights of public school teachers.
The Supreme Court threw the case back down to U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton, who once again took the side of the school district in 2020, same as happened in the 9th Circuit near mid-2021. The legal team of First Liberty and Kirkland & Ellis filed the case once again with the U.S. Supreme Court in September of 2021 and this time the high court said they would take the case and hear it.
“Today, nearly eight years after being fired for praying by himself at the 50-yard line after a football game, Coach Kennedy filed his final brief with the U.S. Supreme Court,” stated Hiram Sasser, the executive general counsel for First Liberty Institute, in a release after filing a brief just last week.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State put out their own statement in opposition of the announcement from the high court.
“No child attending public school should have to pray to play school sports. No student should ever be made to feel excluded – whether it’s in the classroom or on the football field – because they don’t share the religious beliefs of their coaches, teachers or fellow students,” stated Rachel laser, the President and CEO of Americans United.