The U.S. Supreme Court today decided not to hear arguments in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, a case involving a former high school football coach in Washington state who violated students’ religious freedom rights by leading them in prayers on a public high school football field.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State President and CEO Rachel Laser issued the following statement in response:
“Students shouldn’t have to pray to play on their high school football team. The coach’s actions were a clear violation of religious freedom, forcing kids to choose between their own beliefs and appeasing the man who decides the lineup for the game. This is not a dilemma any child should face.
“Luckily, the school district recognized and put a stop to this coercive act, sending the clear message that the beliefs of all students must be respected. The Supreme Court’s action today signals that the school district had the right to protect the religious freedom of its students.”
Kennedy v. Bremerton School District began after Joe Kennedy, an assistant football coach at Bremerton High School, was placed on administrative leave in 2015 because he refused to stop praying with students on the 50-yard line at the end of school football games.
Kennedy did not re-apply to coach at Bremerton; instead, he filed a lawsuit and sought a preliminary injunction ordering the school district to hire him as a coach and allow him to have midfield prayers, surrounded by the students on the team, at the end of the games. A federal court in September 2016 denied the injunction, as did the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in August 2017.
In the 9th Circuit, Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief, joined by nearly a dozen religious and civil rights organizations, and presented oral argument to the court.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
(PHOTO: Screenshot from King 5 News.)