The Supreme Court will hear the case of former Washington state high school football coach who was fired after kneeling in prayer following football games.
Joseph Kennedy, a Marine veteran, was an assistant football coach for the Bremerton High School (BHS) varsity team in 2008 when he started a tradition of kneeling and praying after games. Some students later volunteered to join him. In 2015, a school administrator addressed the issue with the coach after an opposing team complained.
“I think I just might have been fired for praying,” Kennedy would later post on Facebook.
Tune in to https://t.co/mbVQNWAE0O at 8:45a CT. We'll be on the Court's steps and stream the argument. After the case is heard, join Facebook Live to hear from Paul Clement, Kelly Shackelford, and Coach Kennedy. It's a big day, and we want you to be part of it! pic.twitter.com/4YTsHaXlTR
— First Liberty Institute (@1stLiberty) April 25, 2022
After an investigation, Kennedy was later placed on administrative leave and barred from “participating in any capacity in the BHS football program.”
Non-profit conservative legal organization First Liberty Institute took up Kennedy’s case in 2016, and lost in both district court and at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court also denied the request, but four justices – Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh – issued a statement expressing serious concern about how the school district and the lower courts had understood the First Amendment rights of public school teachers.
The Supreme Court sent the case back U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton, who again sided with the school district in 2020, as did the 9th Circuit in mid-2021. Attorneys with First Liberty and Kirkland & Ellis refiled the case at the U.S. Supreme Court in September 2021 and the high court agreed in January to hear it.
“Today, nearly eight years after being fired for praying by himself at the 50-yard line after a football game, Coach Kennedy filed his final brief with the U.S. Supreme Court,” Hiram Sasser, executive general counsel for First Liberty Institute, said in a statement after filing a brief last week.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State released a statement opposing the Supreme Court’s announcement.
“No child attending public school should have to pray to play school sports. No student should ever be made to feel excluded – whether it’s in the classroom or on the football field – because they don’t share the religious beliefs of their coaches, teachers or fellow students,” Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser said.
Watch the full report from First Liberty below: