On Friday, the Supreme Court announced that it will hear oral arguments for Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, a case surrounding a high school football coach who was fired from his position for praying on the field after games.
The case involves Joseph Kennedy, who was suspended and later terminated from his coaching position in the Bremerton School District in Washington state for his post-game prayers in 2015.
Kennedy, who has long been fighting his termination in court, seeks to overturn a 2017 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit which permitted the school district to fire him.
According to The Christian Post, in 2019, the Supreme Court decided not to hear Kennedy’s appeal, sending the case back to the lower courts. In a U.S. District Court, Judge Ronald Leighton ruled in favor of the school district, saying that the school was within their rights to prohibit Kennedy from praying on the football field after games.
The case then went to the Ninth Circuit, but the court declined to rehear arguments in Kennedy’s case.
First Liberty, a Texas-based law firm representing Kennedy, refiled the case in the Supreme Court in September after it initially declined to hear arguments in July.
“No American should be forced to choose between their faith and the job they love,” said First Liberty’s President, CEO, and Chief Counsel Kelly Shackelford in a statement. “The Ninth Circuit’s opinion threatens the rights of millions of Americans who simply want to be able to freely exercise their faith without fear of losing their job. We hope the Supreme Court will right this wrong and restore Coach Kennedy to the football field where he belongs.”
Paul Clement, former U.S. solicitor general, partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and First Liberty volunteer attorney, added that the case “goes to the heart of the First Amendment, to the justices.”
Kennedy, who was the head coach for the Bremerton High School junior varsity football team and an assistant coach for the varsity team, made it a practice to take a knee on the field post-game and silently thank God. He had been coaching for the district since 2008.
According to First Liberty, none of the coaches, parents or students complained about the practice. Instead, a compliment led the school district to instruct Kennedy to stop praying.
Photo courtesy: Harold Mendoza/Unsplash
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.