Religious speech under attack – and what we’re doing about it
This week, Family Policy Alliance of New Mexico filed a Supreme Court brief in support of Coach Joseph Kennedy – because religious speech should not be singled-out for punishment in a free and diverse society.
Joe Kennedy coached football at the Bremerton School District in Washington State. At the end of each game, he would briefly pray, on his own, at the 50-yard line. Curious about what he was doing, a couple of students came to him and when they learned that he was praying, they asked if they could join. Kennedy responded, “It’s a free country, you can do what you want.” Without the coach’s prompting, more students joined in the post-game prayer and eventually students and coaches from other teams joined in as well.
Nearly half of the team had joined Coach Kennedy when the school suddenly told him that he could no longer pray publicly. Despite initially obeying the order, Kennedy believed it violated his freedoms of speech and religion and therefore, chose to return to his post-game prayer tradition – a decision that eventually cost him his job.
The school claimed that they needed to fire Coach Kennedy so that they would not be in violation of the Establishment Clause, a clause in the First Amendment that prohibits the government from “establishing” a religion. That’s the same clause twisted by the Supreme Court to rule that prayer in schools is “unconstitutional”.
The Supreme Court’s modern interpretation of the Establishment Clause has been based on the idea that religious pluralism requires neutrality. But in reality, the effect at schools like Bremerton School District has not been neutrality, but rather a singling out of only religious speech as the only speech worthy of punishment.
A school should not punish a coach for a brief prayer at the end of a football game. Our constitution does not require us to abandon our religious traditions, and the Establishment Clause does not require schools to fire a coach like Joe Kennedy. But if Coach Kennedy can be silenced, do any of us really have freedom?
We must do better! The brief that we have filed with the Supreme Court calls to question whether the Establishment Clause, created to protect our religious freedom from government involvement, trumps Coach Kennedy’s speech and religious rights to pray briefly at the 50-yard line.
Will you pray with us? Pray that the United States Supreme Court will recognize the encroachment of freedoms of both religion and speech in this case. Pray that their decision will honor the freedoms that our Founding Fathers established and that so many have given their lives to protect. Pray that religious speech will no longer be singled-out as the only speech worthy of punishment.