Who is Joseph Kennedy? SCOTUS rules for Christian coach suspended for praying at 50-yard line
'The best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression,' said Justice Neil Gorsuch in the favor of Kennedy
SCOTUS, on Monday, June 27, has ruled in the FAVOR of Joseph Kennedy, a high school football coach who was suspended for praying for his team after winning. The school said that his prayers violated the separation of church and the state. In a 6-3 ruling, the court sided with Kennedy. The high school Christian coach claimed that Bremerton School District meddled with his First Amendment rights of religious freedom by not letting him continue praying at the midfield after games following a September 2015 incident where his students joined him in the same.
On the opposing end, the district claimed that there was a relay of complaints and threats after the news of Kennedy praying broke out which accused of him influencing the students to join him. The district lawyer's claimed that they had no problem with Kennedy praying but by himself. He was placed on administrative leave after 3 more instances where he was seen praying with the students - on the field and in the locker room. His coaching contract was eventually dropped in 2016. According to the district's initial briefing to the Supreme Court, it said, "District administrators received threats and hate mail. Strangers confronted and screamed obscenities at the head coach, who feared for his safety." The Monday ruling established that his prayers were protected by the First Amendment rights to free speech.
Two angels that were in contest at the court were - did Kennedy's public display of religious beliefs represented unprotected 'government speech', and if not, does it violate the First Amendment's Establishment Claus which hinders the government from making any law 'respecting the establishment of a religion.' The court ruled 'no' on both ends. Justice Neil Gorsuch, explaining the majority said, "The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike. A government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance doubly protected by the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment."
Together, we WON for Coach Kennedy at the Supreme Court! Stay tuned as we unfold the victory! pic.twitter.com/HavmkzzexX— First Liberty Institute (@1stLiberty) June 27, 2022
Who's Joseph Kennedy?
Joseph Kennedy, an 18-year Marine veteran, was fired from his job after taking a knee at the 50-yard line at his team's game. Coach Kennedy has been fighting for justice since 2015 and was once deprived of it when his case was dropped by the court in 2019. However, 4 of the conservative judges said that the decision in favor of Bremerton School District was 'troubling.' The coach had previously contended that praying at the 50-yard line was his personal belief which he had been doing since 2008. he previously told New York Times that he had never forced his students to take on this personal belief of his, but that some of his students who were Christian too wanted to join the ritual. He said, "It was never any kind of thing where it was a mandatory thing."
Following the ruling, Kennedy told CNN, "All I've ever wanted was to be back on the field with my guys. I thank God for answering our prayers and sustaining my family through this long battle." After the suit was first filed, Kennedy claimed that he was fired for refusing to stop publicly praying. But the district claimed that his contract was up and he didn't reapply for the position the following year. Richard B. Katskee, a lawyer for the district argued that the school was in the position to ask its employees to stop publicly praying if their students felt pressurized to do the same. But this argument wasn't all the way convincing for some judges.