After a Christian high school coach in New york state refused to quit leading post-game prayers with his players, the U.S. Supreme Court signalled that it was open to allowing public school personnel to more openly express their religious beliefs.
While the court’s more conservative justices were ready for such expressing of religious ideas, they were concerned about the potential for students to be coerced or that the government’s promotion of one religion would violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Joseph Kennedy, a historical part assistant coach there in city of Bremerton, was the focus of the court’s 6-3 conservative majority, which has taken a broad view to religious liberty in several cases. After a lower court dismissed his claims that local school district had violated his First Amendment religion exercise and free speech rights in 2015 by suspending him for refusing to halt the prayers & Christian-infused speeches after games, Kennedy appealed the decision.
Conservative Judge Samuel Alito wondered if Kennedy would be reprimanded for flying a Ukrainian flag in protest of Russia’s invasion had he been a student at a public school.
There is no evidence that you’ve already handled the situation in the same way. Alito inquired of Richard Katskee, a school board lawyer.
Whether or not Kennedy’s conduct as a public employee constitute governmental speech, that can be limited by Supreme Court decisions, or a private act, that the First Amendments would protect, is at question.
Because of this, the lower courts based their decisions on an incorrect assumption: that Kennedy’s conduct might be taken as an official government support of religion. They noticed that he prayed after games & seemed to treat them as though they were not part to his official responsibilities.
Kennedy, according to Justice Brett Kavanaugh, did not require the team to “huddle up” because he would normally do as a coach.
One of the conservative justices, Amy Coney Barrett, suggested Kennedy’s prayers may be viewed as a teacher’s Christian club during school. Barrett said “nobody could mistaken it for government speech” when employees make it clear that are speaking as themselves from outside their customary duties.
Kennedy was told by the school system to stop praying while on duty, and was given the option of using other private areas in the campus as a replacement. According to the report, he originally appeared to cooperate, but eventually refused & made media appearances promoting the argument, which garnered national media exposure for him. In the wake of his persistent defiance, Kennedy is placed on paid vacation from the seasonal contract & did not reapply as a consultant the following year.
Justices on the liberal side questioned Kennedy’s motivations for drawing attention on his prayer and then going public with the story.
“He was the one who made the decision to pray here on 50-yard line in front of the entire stadium. In other words, this was not an afterthought for him. He didn’t only bowed his head down. On his knees in the middle of the field, “The liberal Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor made the statement.
As Justice Elena Kagan pointed out, Supreme Court precedents permit schools to reprimand teachers for behaviour that “puts a form of excessive pressure, a type of coercion on kids to engage in religious events when they may not choose to do so.
There may be compulsion present even when it’s obvious that a teacher isn’t speaking for the district, Kagan continued.
School district attorney Paul Clement said there is no proof of kids being pressured, noting the administration had originally stated that it was trying to avoid endorsing any one faith.
From 2008 until 2015, Kennedy served as a Bremerton High School football coach. When he sued in 2016, his lawyers claimed that he had lost his employment as a result of his activities in 2015. Accusing officials with religious prejudice and breaching his right to free speech, Kennedy requested a court order to also be restored as a coach.
According to court documents, Kennedy has relocated to the Sunshine State of Florida. As long as his position isn’t taken, he’ll come back to the company.