No Pray to Play
On June 27, 2022, the Supreme Court essentially gutted decades of precedent by stripping away public school students’ religious freedom rights.
No public school student should be pressured to pray in school, but the Supreme Court just rejected that basic protection.
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.
To read the more about what’s at stake, visit our legal case page.
AU in the news
Kennedy v. Bremerton School District Press Call
Rachel Laser on The Thom Hartmann Program Live
ABC News: Coach asks Supreme Court to OK post-game prayers
CNBC reports on Kennedy v. Bremerton Supreme Court case
King5 News: Supreme Court to hear case of Bremerton High School's former praying football coach
KOMO News: Supreme Court to soon hear oral arguments in praying high school football coach case
No one should ever have to choose between their religious freedom and being part of the team.
Educate and empower your communities to know their religious freedom rights in public schools.
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 on the case
- Kennedy v. Bremerton School District
- Americans United: Kennedy’s Attorneys Present Deceitful Narrative To Supreme Court In Kennedy v. Bremerton School District
- SCOTUS Should Not Allow Students To Be Pressured To Pray To Play!