SCOTUS Rules In Favor of High School Coach Who Led School Athletes in Prayer

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Washington high school football coach who refused to stop leading athletes in prayer at the 50-yard line.

In a 6-3 ruling Monday, SCOTUS said former Bremerton High School football coach Joe Kennedy’s actions were protected by the First Amendment. His former employer – a public high school – did not have the right to demand he stop praying after games, the Court said.  

"Both the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect expressions like Mr. Kennedy’s," Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion. "Nor does a proper understanding of the Amendment’s Establishment Clause require the government to single out private religious speech for special disfavor. The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike."

This is the second SCOTUS ruling in the past week that worked out favorably for religious plaintiffs or institutions. On June 21, the Court ruled that the state of Maine could not exclude faith-based institutions from a program that offers tuition assistance for private education. That decision was also 6-3.

The Washington ruling in particular could open public schools up to more displays of religiosity by teachers and staff. While supporters lauded the decisions as a victory for the free expression of religion, critics of both decisions say SCOTUS is helping to erode the separation of church and state.


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