Schools and Learning

A Supreme Court Victory For Coach Kennedy Could Lead To More Public School Employees Pressuring Students To Pray

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Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which represents the Bremerton School District, issued the following statement today in response to the Supreme Court brief filed by Joseph Kennedy’s attorneys in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District:

“Mr. Kennedy’s attorneys continue to present a deceitful narrative to the Court because they know the facts of the case, the laws of our country, and religious and nonreligious Americans alike are on the side of protecting students’ religious freedom,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United. “The law is clear that teachers and coaches cannot lead public school students in prayer. That’s what makes this case so urgent – a loss would dangerously erode church-state separation, a core principle of our democracy.”

CASE BACKGROUND

Kennedy, a former assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in Washington State, violated the religious freedom of his players by pressuring them to join his public prayers at the 50-yard line at their football games. The school district 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.

Kennedy sued the district. Despite lower courts affirming that Kennedy’s actions undermined the religious freedom of Bremerton’s students, Kennedy’s lawyers have spun a ‘deceitful narrative’ to push 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.

Americans United joined the school district’s legal team in 2021. When the Supreme Court hears oral arguments on April 25, AU Vice President and Legal Director Richard B. Katskee will argue on the school district’s behalf. The district’s legal team also includes AU’s Litigation Counsel Bradley Girard, Steven Gey Constitutional Litigation Fellow Alex Bodaken and Madison Legal Fellow Gabriela Hybel; and Michael B. Tierney from the law firm Tierney, Correa & Zeinemann, P.C.

CASE DOCUMENTS

  • Background information on Kennedy v. Bremerton is available here
  • Bremerton School District’s March 25, 2022, Brief of Respondent
  • Bremerton School District’s Feb. 18, 2022, Brief to Suggest Mootness
  • Photos depicting Kennedy’s public prayers with students are available here and here

All media inquiries for the Bremerton School District related to this case should be directed to Liz Hayes at Americans United, at [email protected].

Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Press Contact

Liz Hayes
Associate Vice President of Communications
[email protected]

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