No Pray to Play

Today, April 25, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. This case is about a coach who violated the religious freedom of students by pressuring them to join his public prayers at the 50-yard line at public high school football games.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Kennedy v. Bremerton April 25, 2022

Joseph Kennedy, a former football coach at Bremerton High School in Washington, repeatedly prayed with his team on the 50-yard line at the end of games, violating students’ First Amendment rights by pressuring them to join.

The school district tried to work with him to find options for him to have time and space for personal prayer while on the job, but he refused, demanding that he be able to pray at the center of the field, out loud, and with students. Kennedy sued the District.

Despite lower courts affirming that Kennedy’s actions undermined the religious freedom of Bremerton’s students, Kennedy’s lawyers, supported by a shadow network of religious extremists, have spun a deceitful narrative and pushed this case to the Supreme Court. Americans United—joined by religious and nonreligious communities alike—is fighting to protect the separation of church and state, the religious freedom of these students, and the constitutional rights of all Americans.

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Kennedy v. Bremerton Timeline

2015: Bremerton protects students’ religious freedom

Joseph Kennedy, a former football coach at Bremerton High School in Washington, violated the religious freedom of his students by pressuring them to join his prayers at the 50-yard line after their football games. The Bremerton School District followed well-established law and protected students’ rights by stopping him from leading prayers. At the same time, Bremerton repeatedly offered him time and space for personal prayer while on the job, but he refused, demanding that he be able to pray at the center of the field, out loud, and with students.

2016: Kennedy sues Bremerton School District

When Kennedy refused to stop his post-game public prayers, Bremerton had no choice but to put him on paid administrative leave. Kennedy chose not to reapply to be a coach for the next school year. Instead he sued the school district.

2019: Supreme Court declines to hear case

After both the federal district and appeals courts sided with Bremerton, which was simply protecting the religious freedom of its students, Kennedy asked the Supreme Court to hear his case. The Supreme Court denied review, but some of the Justices expressed possible future interest in the case.

2021: Kennedy pushes deceitful narrative to Supreme Court

The case returned to the district court, which again denied Kennedy’s claims and ruled in favor of Bremerton. A panel of the appeals court again ruled for the school district and the entire appeals court then denied a request to hear the case. Wanting to overturn decades of established law and allow government-sponsored prayers in public schools, Kennedy’s lawyers continued to spin a deceitful narrative to try to get the Supreme Court to take the case. For a second time, Kennedy’s lawyers asked the Supreme Court for review.

2022: The Supreme Court announced it would take the case

Oral arguments will be heard on April 25, 2022.

Read more about the case here

BREAKING:

AU calls out leaked supreme court opinion overturning abortion rights as a religious extremist assault on our democracy

"The end of Roe is just the beginning. Next on the hit list are a broad array of protections for personal liberty."—Rachel Laser, AU's CEO and President

Read our statement here