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Supreme Court Rules in Favor of HSFB Coach Who Sought to Pray on Field After Games

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVJune 27, 2022

Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The United States Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in its decision Monday in favor of a high school football coach who prayed with students on the field after games, per Jessica Gresko of the Associated Press.

The majority opinion argued the coach's prayer was protected by the first amendment of the Constitution.

"The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike," Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote.

The plaintiff for the case was Joseph Kennedy, a former assistant coach for Bremerton High School in Washington state. He was put on paid leave in 2015 after the public school asked him to stop praying on the field after games and he refused. The coach was often joined by students in prayer and he also led locker room prayers.

"I'd take a knee and thank God for what the guys just did and the opportunity to be a coach," Kennedy told Michael A. Fletcher of ESPN. "I wanted to hang out with my players and develop these young men."

When the issue became politicized, the school district said the on-field prayer could only continue if it was non-demonstrative or without students in order to maintain the separation of church and state.

"I wish to again emphasize that the district does not prohibit prayer or other religious exercise by its employees," Superintendent Aaron Leavell wrote, via Gene Johnson of the Associate Press. "However, it must prohibit any conduct by its employees that would serve as District endorsement of religion."

After Kennedy continued the activity in ensuing games, he was placed on leave and his contract was not renewed.

Conservative and religious groups helped bring the case to the Supreme Court, with the Christian legal group First Liberty Institute serving as Kennedy's attorneys. After winning the case, Kennedy is looking to return to the sidelines.

"This is just so awesome," he said in a statement. "All I've ever wanted was to be back on the field with my guys. I thank God for answering our prayers and sustaining my family through this long battle."

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