Coach Kennedy had his day in court and according to those who follow the U.S. Supreme Court closely, it went well for him – and for the case for religious freedom. A review by SCOTUS Blog indicates a majority of justices seemed to be sympathetic to Joseph Kennedy’s argument.
Questions from a number of justices included hypothetical scenarios fleshing out the difference between government speech and private speech, as well as what constitutes coercion of students to participate.
Coach Kennedy is the Washington state football coach who used to pray a silent prayer on the 50-yard line after each game. Some students joined him until a complaint eventually led him to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments Monday. Read more here and here.
A Heritage Foundation review of Monday’s oral arguments points out that the school expressly mentioned the reason it fired Coach Kennedy was his religious expression.
The review followed with a compelling point made by Justices Thomas and Alito, “Thomas asked whether a coach who took a knee during the national anthem based on a moral opposition to racism would be engaging in government speech. Alito … asked, if a school allows kneeling for racial justice, climate change, to support Ukraine, but doesn’t allow kneeling to pray—how is that not religious discrimination?”
Another interesting highlight came when Justice Kavanaugh asked if the law differentiated between audible or silent prayer. For example, if the coach crossed himself on the sidelines, would that be permissible? The school’s attorney indicated he believes as long as the coach wasn’t making himself the center of attention (referencing Coach Kennedy’s take to the 50-yard line), then it would be fine.
Justice Kavanaugh’s response: “I don’t know how we could write an opinion that would draw a line based on not making yourself the center of attention as the head coach of a game.”
Al Mohler noted several interesting aspects of the case and the argument from the school’s attorney, who represents Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Among Mohler’s points is the assertion by the attorney that a win for Kennedy would actually threaten the religious freedom of students. Mohler notes, “Here you see the secularist agenda, religious liberty is simply redefined as something that should prevent anyone who might not want to see or to witness any religious act or confront any religious message. It is basically the claim that religious liberty means that at least in the public square, religious liberty comes down to never having to see anyone or observe anything or hear any message that is religious.”
After nearly two hours of hypothetical scenarios and dissecting complicated Supreme Court tests used in prior cases to distinguish between free exercise of religion and establishment of religion, the school’s attorney asked the Court to send the case back to lower courts to decide if what Kennedy did constituted coercion. No telling how long that would take, considering Kennedy’s court battles have already lasted six years.
The Court will likely have a decision by the end of June.
- The Arizona House gave final passage to HB 2161, which ensures parents have access to their children’s educational and medical records, as well requires parental permission prior to giving probing surveys to students. It is now on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature.
- Governor Ducey signed two CAP-supported bills this week! Monday, he signed into law HB 2449 ensuring patients in hospice facilities and the like get access to a clergy visit during a public emergency such as the pandemic. He also signed HB 2507, which ensures churches and other religious organizations are deemed essential services during a public emergency like a pandemic, allowing them to remain open when other essential services are allowed to open.
- Read more about Kennedy’s day in court
- Read here about a new fight for religious freedom and free speech on college campus.
- Read here about who is behind the gender ideological curriculum infiltrating public schools, and how parents are fighting back.
- Read here how Google thought police are encouraging people to use woke language in their prose.
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