SCOTUS hears highschool coach’s prayer case

5:32 PM ET

Michael A. FletcherESPN


Michael Fletcher is a senior author with ESPN’s enterprise and investigative group. Earlier than that, he wrote for ESPN’s The Undefeated, specializing in politics, felony justice and social points. He spent 21 years at The Washington Submit, the place his beats included the nationwide economic system, the White Home and race relations.

The U.S. Supreme Court docket on Monday grappled with the case of a former highschool soccer coach who misplaced his job for praying at midfield instantly after video games, in a authorized battle that might redefine the boundaries of non secular liberty in public colleges.

Joseph Kennedy, an assistant coach of Bremerton Excessive College’s varsity soccer group and head coach of the junior varsity for seven years, mentioned he had a dedication to God to take a knee and say a short prayer after every sport proper at midfield. He initially prayed alone, however as time went on he was joined by some gamers.

When public faculty officers in Bremerton, Washington requested Kennedy to cease praying publicly, he refused. He was positioned on depart and his contract was not renewed in 2015. Kennedy sued, and with the help of conservative activists, his case wound its method to the Supreme Court docket.

Throughout an oral argument that stretched practically double the allotted hour, the justices appeared divided alongside ideological traces. The courtroom’s three extra liberal members in contrast Kennedy’s prayers to the hypothetical prayers of different faculty officers, which might not be permitted.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor additionally questioned whether or not Kennedy’s prayers have been certainly personal, or public spectacles.

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“I don’t know of another faith that requires you to get on the 50-yard line, the place the place postgame victory speeches are given,” Sotomayor requested. “What faith requires you to do it at that spot?”

Sotomayor later requested whether or not there could be any distinction between Kennedy’s actions and that of a trainer who decides to say a prayer at school instantly after the bell has sounded, at the same time as college students are approaching with questions.

Members of the courtroom’s six-member conservative majority, in the meantime, requested questions evaluating Kennedy’s prayers to different, non-religious actions.

Justice Clarence Thomas requested how the college district would reply if quite than taking a knee for prayer, the coach took a knee on the sphere in the course of the nationwide anthem in “ethical opposition to racism.”

Justice Amy Coney Barrett puzzled whether or not it could be considered as coercive if Coach Kennedy ran a Christian youth group on his personal time that occurred to be attended by a lot of his gamers.

Many authorized observers count on the excessive courtroom, with its conservative majority, to rule in Kennedy’s favor, though decrease courts have dominated towards him. In current choices the Supreme Court docket has tended to help spiritual liberty, and a victory for Kennedy might loosen restrictions on spiritual expression in public colleges.

The courtroom is anticipated to subject a call within the case earlier than its summer season recess begins in late June.