SCOTUS hears arguments in potentially pivotal religious liberty case
By Sarah May
April 26, 2022
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of a high school football coach who lost his job for conducting post-game, on-field prayers, in a session that has liberals everywhere in a panic over its potentially pivotal impact on religious freedom in this country, as Fox News reports.
The case at issue involves Joseph Kennedy of Bremerton, Washington, and the justices must decide whether the public school district in which he was employed was justified in suspending him from his job because he declined to quit praying at the conclusion of football games, or whether that action represented a violation of his First Amendment rights.
Kennedys case has taken a long and winding path to the Supreme Court, and the former coach has suffered a number of defeats in the lower courts, with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals determining that by kneeling on the field and praying in plain sight of students and parents, he spoke as a public employee, not as a private citizen, and his speech therefore was constitutionally unprotected.
The high court itself declined back in 2019 to hear the case, though it did order the appeals court to revisit the questions presented in the controversy, with four justices on the conservative wing of the panel voicing concern that the lower courts understanding of the free speech rights of public school teachers is troubling and may justify review in the future.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court was asked again and decided to hear arguments in Kennedys case, as the Washington Examiner noted, and with the current 6-3 conservative majority on the bench, liberals everywhere fear the chances that the coach will prevail are stronger than ever.
Articulating those worries were attorneys for the district who wrote in their brief to the high court, Parents should not have to fear that the messages their children receive in Sunday school will be undermined by competing religious messages Monday morning in English class or Friday night on the football field.
Rachel Laser of Americans United for Separation of Church and State added, If the court rules the wrong way, teachers and coaches could pressure students to pray in every public school classroom across the country.
Supporters of Kennedy, however, believe that a loss, in this case, would mean that public school teachers would have to shed their religious beliefs at the schoolhouse door, something they argue is not something the Constitution in any way requires.
Though a ruling in the matter is not expected until June, NBC News reported on Monday that based on the tone of the justices questioning of counsel during Mondays oral arguments, Kennedys prospects for victory look strong, an assessment that will come as music to the ears of the faithful all across America.