The United States Supreme Court sided with former football Coach Joe Kennedy who argued that the Bremerton School District in Washington state violated his religious freedom by telling him he couldn’t pray on the field after games.
The First Amendment case concerned prayer on the 50’yard line. The Court says the school district violated the coach’s free speech and free exercise of rights when it barred him from being on the field after games.
In October 2021, U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on The Constitution, and James Lankford (R-Okla.) filed an amicus brief signed by 11 other Senators and 14 Representatives in support of Kennedy in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District.
The brief asked the Supreme Court to reverse the Ninth Circuit’s decision that allowed Coach Kennedy to be fired for silently kneeling and praying after school football games.
U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) is co-leading the brief for the House.
The attorneys general of Alaska, Arizona and Texas led a 23-state coalition defending religious liberty for the coach who was unjustly fired for praying after games.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Coach Joseph Kennedy’s religious discrimination claim against the school district, saying that because Coach Kennedy prayed in view of students, his prayers are considered government speech that the district can censor.
The coalition urged the Supreme Court to review and reverse that decision because of the serious First Amendment concerns it raises.
“The Ninth Circuit’s conclusion threatens to make everything a public employee does while on the clock into government speech,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said. “In turn, that would require public employers to control their employees’ every word in order to avoid liability.”
“Americans do not abandon their religious liberties at the door of their workplace,” Arizona AG Mark Brnovich said in a statement. “Especially at this moment in our country’s history, it is imperative that heavy-handed government be restrained from trampling on our rights to personal expression as recognized and protected by the First Amendment.”
The Ninth Circuit’s decision curtails the First Amendment liberties of public employees, which will deter individuals from seeking public employment to avoid being forced to give up their constitutionally protected liberties.
Senate co-signers included Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and John Thune (R-S.D.).
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