Washington state football coach fired for post-game prayers takes case to Supreme Court
A former high school football coach challenging the ban on post-game prayers has pledged to take his case to the Supreme Court after losing his last appeal on Monday.
Joe Kennedy and his legal team alleged that the former coach’s First Amendment rights were violated by the Bremerton School District in Washington state after he was ordered to end his sessions. prayer while on the field with players.
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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declined to rehear arguments challenging a district court ruling in favor of the school district.
“We will appeal and are confident that the Supreme Court of the United States will correct this wrong,” said Jeff Mateer, legal director of the First Liberty Institute. “Banning coaches from praying just because they can be seen contradicts the Constitution.”
Kennedy was first suspended and then fired in 2015 after refusing to stop praying on the pitch while acting as a public school coach.
The former coach’s post-match prayers began with him silently praying alone on the pitch, although he was later joined by players.
The school argued that Kennedy had never been reprimanded for praying alone in silence and applauded the court’s decision.
“The Ninth Circuit made the right choice: The Bremerton School District was right to protect the religious freedom of its students and their families,” said Richard Katskee, legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, l school district legal team. in a statement to Fox News. “The Constitution requires that public schools provide an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students … which includes ensuring that student-athletes do not feel pressured into praying or participating in religious activities to secure their place in a team. “
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The Ninth Circuit said Kennedy “spoke as a public employee,” which prohibited him from engaging in religious activities.
The appeals court also noted that the school offered the then coach “a private location in the school building, sports facilities or press box” before or after the match for a prayer. private.
He was also allowed to pray on the pitch if he wished as long as he waited for all players and fans to leave the venue.
Fox News could not immediately reach Kennedy’s lawyers.
This is not the first time that the case has been taken to the High Court.
In 2019, the Supreme Court sent the Kennedy case back to lower courts, saying more facts needed to be determined.
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“Coach Kennedy was denied the freedom to coach for over five years, but he was never a let go,” said Mateer. “We will continue to fight.”
The legal team representing the Bremerton School District condemned the decision and called on the Supreme Court to dismiss the case again.
“If the Supreme Court is interested in a case involving the personal and private religious activity of public school employees, that is simply not the case,” Katskee told Fox News. “And he certainly shouldn’t have the courage to infringe on the religious freedom of students and their families.”
Dom Calicchio contributed to this report.