Supreme Court to Hear Case of Fired Football Coach Who Prayed at 50-Yard-Line

A holy Christian cross laying on an open Bible with an American flag in the background.
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High school football coach Joe Kennedy lost his job when he refused to stop praying on the 50-yard line after games.

Now the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Kennedy v. Bremerton School District.

The development comes years after Kennedy last knelt for a 30-second silent prayer on the football field at Bremerton High School in Washington state.

Newsweek wrote a feature on Kennedy that reports, ironically, it is other so-called religious groups that pushed back on the Christian’s First Amendment free exercise of his faith:

Kennedy v. Bremerton School District has drawn widespread support for the coach, including 54 Republican members of Congress, numerous religious groups, former President Donald Trump and eight former National Football League players, who have filed an amicus brief asserting that prayer among players and coaches is an acceptable activity at high school football games.

On the opposite side are school officials, some parents, and clergy aligned with the Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which is providing the legal muscle and funds to argue the case on the school district’s behalf.

‘Coach Kennedy has used his position of power here in the Bremerton School District to put pressure on these local students to participate in a post-game ritual which involved Christian prayer,’ says the Reverend Gregory Reffner, pastor at Brownsville United Methodist Church in Bremerton. ‘Even though Coach Kennedy may not have intended to apply that pressure, the fact is there was an impact of it being there.’

On the other side is the First Liberty Institute representing Kennedy, who served for 20 years as a Marine and found his faith after a rough childhood spent in foster care and inspiration from a Christian film about a football coach who took a pastoral approach to team building.

Newsweek reported that Republican lawmakers Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) and Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) filed an amicus brief in the case.

“If Coach Kennedy took a knee during the National Anthem, his school would have praised him, but instead, he took a knee after a football game to pray so the school fired him,” Lankford said. “Schools cannot pick and choose which type of free speech or faith expression they like or do not like.”

Americans United legal director Richard Katskee will represent the school district. Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, a partner with the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, will represent Kennedy when the case is heard on April 25.

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