FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 27, 2022
BREAKING: Religious Freedom Wins at the Supreme Court
Supreme Court sides with coach who lost his job for praying after football games
Today, in a significant decision for religious freedom, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Coach Joseph Kennedy. Coach Kennedy is a high school football coach who lost his job at a public school in Washington state after he prayed briefly at the 50-yard line. Today, the Supreme Court held that his prayer was protected by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, and that it was not in violation of the same amendment’s Establishment Clause.
Craig DeRoche, CEO and President of Family Policy Alliance, offered the following statement:
“Today’s decision is a monumental victory, not only for Coach Kennedy, but for every American who wants to live their faith. The U.S. Constitution has never, and will never, require Americans to abandon their faith. We applaud the six justices of the Supreme Court who today firmly upheld that truth.”
In March, Family Policy Alliance filed an amicus brief in the case together with 29 state family policy councils from around the country, including Pennsylvania’s Independence Law Center (which authored the brief). Family Policy Alliance is pleased to host this alliance of independent state-based family policy councils around the country. Together, the alliance represents more than a million people across the nation.
The case has drawn significant national attention, especially from people of faith. In April, Family Policy Alliance and Focus on the Family called on Americans to pray for Coach Kennedy on 50-yard lines near them in advance of the case’s Supreme Court arguments. Americans across the country participated in the event.
- Establishment Clause: Modern Supreme Court cases have observed that the Constitution’s Establishment Clause is meant to foster a neutral approach toward religion.
- Yet in Coach Kennedy’s case, the government’s approach was far from neutral.
- Case background:
- Today, teachers are permitted to make controversial statements on all kinds of topics, including critical race theory, sexuality, and other politically charged topics.
- Yet Coach Kennedy’s short, individual prayer resulted in a “do not re-hire” recommendation from the school district.
- Coach Kennedy began saying a brief prayer following games years ago. Initially he did so alone, but some students asked him what he was doing. When they asked if they could join, he responded, “This is a free country,” and “You can do what you want.”
- When the school learned what he was doing, it demanded he stop, but he felt responsible to thank God for the games in that way. As a result, he lost his job.
- This prayer hardly amounts to an establishment of religion, particularly when the school was clear that it had nothing to do with Kennedy’s activities.
- Instead of neutrality, the school demonstrated hostility toward religion.
- Lemon Test: Today the Court finally dispensed with the notorious “Lemon Test,” a deeply flawed, inhibitive legal doctrine that restricted American’s First Amendment rights. Instead, the Court has instructed that the Establishment Clause must be interpreted in the simple light of American history and tradition. This is an additional victory for Americans’ religious freedom rights.
Robert Noland, (719) 308-2822, Media@FamilyPolicyAlliance.com
Family Policy Alliance advances biblical citizenship and promotes public policy that protects religious freedom, families, and life.