Supreme Court Leaning Toward Protecting Coach In Prayer Case

( A high school football coach from the state of Washington may have garnered support from the conservative majority on the Supreme Court earlier this week.

On Monday, the justices seemed to be open to the oral arguments that lawyers for Joe Kennedy made regarding their client’s employment case. Kennedy was fired by Bremerton High School for praying after games on the football field.

In oral arguments, Kennedy’s lawyer, Paul Clement, said that his client never forced anybody else to join in on the prayers that he held at midfield after games, and that lasted only 15 seconds. Rather, players asked Kennedy if they were able to join him in the prayers — and his response was that America was free, and they could act as they wanted to.

The justices pressed Clement during oral arguments, and the lawyer responded that the school district administration claimed that Kennedy coerced players to join in on the prayers. At the same time, the high school’s initial rationale for Kennedy’s firing was his actions could be perceived as the high school endorsing religion.

Bremerton School District’s lawyer in the case, Richard Katskee, argued that Kennedy had coerced his players to pray with him. In addition, he added that the district had the right to require all employees to refrain from praying in a public place, should they feel it would make students feel like they had to join in.

And, according to the district, Kennedy’s actions fit that description.

Conservative justices on the Supreme Court pressed Katskee about the argument of coercion, since it was a rationalization the school district added at a later time.

The New York Times reported that Chief Justice John Roberts directly the lawyer if Kennedy would’ve been allowed to pray out loud with his arms outstretched.

Another conservative justice, Samuel Alito, questioned him about whether the coach would’ve been disciplined if he had protested Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, climate change or racial injustice.

Even liberal justice Stephen Breyer, who is retiring from the high court at the end of this term, said:

“This may be a case about the facts and not really much about the law.”

Liberty Counsel filed what’s known as a “friend of the court brief” to support Kennedy. They issued a press release saying that the issues of constitutionality the high court focused on were:

“Whether a public school employee who says a brief, quiet prayer by himself while at school and visible to students is engaged in government speech that lacks any First Amendment protection; and whether, assuming that such religious expression is private and protected by the free speech and free exercise clauses, the establishment clause nevertheless compels public schools to prohibit it.”

In addition, the counsel, which is a non-profit group, explained that the argument Kennedy’s lawyers are making is that the U.S. Constitution protects the right of both students and teachers in public schools to pray.