A high school football coach who was fired for praying after football games is taking his case to the U.S. Supreme Court after losing a recent appeal.
In 2015, then-coach Joseph Kennedy was suspended then fired from the Bremerton School District in Washington state for his post-game prayers. While Kennedy initially prayed alone on the field in silence, he was later joined by players.
Kennedy's legal team, First Liberty, a nonprofit legal organization, contended that the school district violated his rights.
On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declined to rehear arguments that contested a district court's ruling in favor of the school district.
"We will appeal and are confident that the Supreme Court of the United States will right this wrong," Jeff Mateer, First Liberty Institute's Chief Legal Officer, said in a statement. "Banning coaches from praying just because they can be seen contradicts the Constitution. Coach Kennedy has been denied the freedom to coach for over five years, but he's never been a quitter. We will fight on."
In a statement shared to Fox News, a member of the school district's legal team applauded the ninth circuit's decision.
"The Ninth Circuit made the right call: The Bremerton School District was correct to protect the religious freedom of its students and their families," Richard Katskee, the legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said. Americans United for Separation of Church and State is representing the school district.
"The Constitution requires public schools to provide an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students … that includes ensuring that student-athletes don't feel compelled to pray or participate in religious activities to secure their place on a team," he added.
According to the ninth circuit, Kennedy "spoke as a public employee," which prevents him from participating in religiously affiliated actions. The appeals court also pointed out that the school gave Kennedy "a private location within the school building, athletic facility, or press box" before and after the game so he can pray by himself.
Additionally, the school allowed him to pray on the field after players and fans left the premises.
Katskee criticized the move by Kennedy's legal team and called on the nation's high court to throw out the case.
"If the Supreme Court is interested in a case about personal, private religious activity by public-school employees, this just isn't that case," he argued. "And it certainly shouldn't have any stomach for undermining the religious freedom of the students and their families."
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.