Faith Leaders, add your voices in support of students’ religious freedom
As faith leaders, we are deeply concerned that the U.S. Supreme Court could issue a ruling in the Kennedy v. Bremerton School District case that undermines our country’s fundamental principle of keeping religion and government separate—which protects religious freedom for all of us.
In Bremerton, a coach 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. As leaders of different faith traditions and denominations, we are united in the belief that public school students should never be pressured to pray by their teachers or coaches. Prayer is sacred and personal. Teachers and coaches should never use it in a way that makes students feel that they have to choose between their religious freedom and being part of the team or earning a good grade.
To be clear, students have the right to engage in student-led voluntary prayer in public schools—and they do so every day. But public school teachers and coaches cannot and should not lead students in prayer. Allowing coaches and teachers to do so would exclude students—especially those who belong to minority religions or are nonreligious—and would discourage many from fully participating in school life. Public schools must make all students feel welcome and treat them equally, regardless of faith or belief.
The Supreme Court should not overturn decades of established law. Moreover, religious practice should not harm others. That’s what makes this case so critical. A loss in this case would dangerously erode the separation of religion and government that has allowed our many faith communities to flourish, and sanction the use of faith to exclude and alienate.
As faith leaders, we support the Bremerton School District in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to protect religious freedom for all of us.