Exclusive – Ken Blackwell: Coach Kennedy Case Is ‘Inflection Point’ for Free Speech, Religious Liberty in America

Christians Gather At Supreme Court To Pray As Bremerton Case Is Heard WASHINGTON, DC - APR
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Coach Joe Kennedy’s case at the Supreme Court could result in a major ruling on constitutional rights of free speech and religious liberty, with widespread implications for children, parents, and government employees at a time when those issues are major topics on the national stage.

Kennedy is a former Marine, who, when he finished his uniformed service, was offered a job as a high school football coach. A devout Christian, he was inspired by a scene he saw in a movie to thank God after each football game for having the opportunity to influence these young men. And each week, he would offer a short silent prayer on the 50-yard line.

He did this for years without incident, until the parent of one player commented to a school administrator that she was grateful for what she saw as a positive example for young men. Leaving no good deed unpunished, once administrators were aware, they ordered Kennedy to stop.

Coach Kennedy connected with lawyers from First Liberty Institute to represent him, who attempted to meet with school officials to discuss the matter. Instead the school punished him, including ordering him not to pray after football games where students could see him.

He felt bound by conscience regarding his promise to God to be faithful in giving thanks for his players and asking God’s blessing on them. So he kept praying, and they fired him.

That was 2015. This matter has been in court ever since. During this litigation, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that, not only did Kennedy not have First Amendment rights of free speech or the free exercise of religion to pray, but that, in fact, it would violate the Constitution’s Establishment Clause if Kennedy continued to pray, because he was a local government employee and thus his doing so would mean that the government was establishing an official religion.

This proved too much for the nation’s highest court, which heard arguments in his case Monday. The justices’ questions strongly suggest that Kennedy has majority support on the Supreme Court, with a decision expected in late June.

Coach Kennedy’s case could become a major constitutional decision, declaring the meaning of three separate provisions of the First Amendment: the Establishment Clause, Free Exercise Clause, and Free Speech Clause. This decision is likely to further define the civil rights of people serving in government — not limited to public schools — to speak and share their faith, as well as the rights of students and parents.

It might also further define the Establishment Clause, which has been used by activist liberal Supreme Court majorities since the 1960s as a wrecking ball to demolish longstanding expressions and celebrations of faith and the historical role of Judeo-Christian moral philosophy in American life.

“Former President Donald Trump made Coach Kennedy something of a celebrity,” former Ambassador Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, explained exclusively to Breitbart News. “President Trump would talk about his case on the campaign trail in 2016 when first running for office, making the coach a mainstay of public discussions on religious liberty, especially in schools.”

“America is at an inflection point on both free speech and religious liberty, and Coach Kennedy’s case is at the fulcrum of that inflection point,” Blackwell continued. “People of faith are under attack in manners unthinkable even a decade ago, and it is of paramount importance that the Supreme Court be the final bulwark of God-given civil rights against the authoritarianism of Joe Biden’s administration and their radical comrades.”

The Kennedy case will be the most significant religious liberty case since Amy Coney Barrett replaced Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, shifting the swing-justice role of the fifth vote to create a majority opinion from John Roberts to Brett Kavanaugh. And, it will showcase former President Trump’s impact on America’s highest court.

Ken Klukowski is a practicing lawyer who served in the White House and Justice Department, and is a Breitbart News contributor.


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