Religious conservatives have won numerous Supreme Court cases over the past decade, including forcing public funding for christian schools, permitting Christian prayers before local authority meetings, and establishing wide religious exemptions to Obamacare’s contraception coverage mandate.
Supreme Court justices were receptive to further eroding constitutional barriers separating church & state during Monday’s dramatic two-hour debate over the cases of high school coach disciplined for prayer on the field.
Ex-coach Joe Kennedy’s claims of religious harassment it against Bremerton School District in Washington might undermine decades of precedent barring prayer in schools if taken to its greatest extent Public schools were first prohibited from requiring children to say daily prayers after the Supreme Court ruled in 1962. High school graduation prayers were banned in 1992, and before prayer more than a loudspeaker was declared unconstitutional in 2000 by the Supreme Court.
Samuel Alito, a justice who has argued that religion is under attack in the United States, was one of the justices who seemed most receptive to Kennedy. He would have been reprimanded if his post-game remarks had concentrated on the Russian attack of Ukraine or another hot political topic. Alito argued that the school district’s decision reflected prejudice toward religion.
It was stated by Justice Brett Kavanaugh that he thought Kennedy’s case was unique because students may avoid being exposed to the team’s message if they wished.
For Kavanaugh, the fact that Kennedy prayed silently on the 50-yard line “while the players were dispersing after the game” contrasted sharply with the prayers offered over “loudspeakers” in the 2000 case.
Students who feel forced to follow the coach were put in the spotlight by liberal Justice Elena Kagan.
It’s “the concept of why the schools can reprimand him,” Kagan said, “is because that places an unwarranted demand, a type of coercion, on children… to participation in religious events even since they may not choose to, whether their religion is other or they have any religion.”
School districts may wish to safeguard pupils from the fear that they would be thrown out of a game if they do not adhere to a coach’s rules and regulations, as Kagan explained. In her opinion, such coercion is not appropriate for 16-year-olds.
Church-state relations have become increasingly blurred under the present administration’s high court. With the accession of conservative justices like Kavanaugh and Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch & Amy Coney Barrett, the tendency has become more pronounced.
It was Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s final written ruling before her retirement in 2020 that criticised the court’s current trend.
To protect employers’ religious & moral exemptions as from Affordable Care Act’s contraception requirement, she wrote: “The Court puts aside countervailing rights & interests in its desire to defend religious liberties in the nth degree. According to her, “the rights and liberties of people who do not support these values” are being ignored by the majority.
When it comes to school funding, for example, the Supreme Court has redefined government measures previously considered neutral to be potentially discriminatory over the years.
Justices may also strike down a programme that allows parents to use public and private school vouchers, but not religious institutions, in this session based on prior arguments in a financing dispute from Maine.
The “culture wars” over school prayer have persisted since at least the Reagan years, much like the current Supreme Court battles over abortion rights & gun control.
It was actually Ed Meese, who served as Reagan’s attorney general, who drafted a brief with the other previous Republican attorneys general in support of Kennedy.
They contended that “prayer with in public sphere—and especially in public schools—was historically widespread,” they stated. “That the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause might be used to cancel a coach’s private prayers would be unthinkable for the Americans who created and ratified it. Thus should this court.”
To counter this, a panel of 11 experts on church-state relations has urged the Supreme Court to tighten its restrictions on students praying in school classrooms. ” Ultimately, (Kennedy’s) argument is a direct attack on the line of precedents that began in Engel v. Vitale (1962) and ended with the Supreme Court’s decision in Santa Fe Elementary v. Doe, “The case in 2000 that prohibited pre-game prayer on a public address system.
“Disturbingly little remains of the Court’s precedents” if Kennedy wins, according to a brief by lawyer Joshua Matz.