It took six years, but the highest court in the land has finally agreed to listen.
Back in 2015, a high school football coach and a Marine Corps veteran was ordered to stop saying a prayer after games. Joseph Kennedy of Bremerton High School in Washington is a devout Christian.
But that didn’t fly with some people, as one school administrator complained about his post-game prayer routine.
After that, the superintendent sent a letter to Kennedy, ordering him to stop the prayers. Kennedy had been working at the school since 2008 and up until 2015, his post-game ritual wasn’t a problem.
Believing in religious freedom, he didn’t listen to the demand, and kept praying at the 50-yard line after games.
Then he was promptly fired from his role as varsity assistant coach and junior varsity head coach. Kennedy quickly fired back, saying the move was in violation of his rights and the Constitution.
The battle has raged in lower courts for years but now, at long last, the Supreme Court is about to weigh in.
The Supreme Court late last week agreed to hear oral arguments in a religious liberty case regarding a high school football coach who was fired for praying on the field after games.
The case has taken several years — since 2015 — to be accepted by the highest court in the United States, and will require the justices to look at three parts of the First Amendment and how they pertain to public employees.
Kennedy maintains that the school violated the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment.
At the same time, the district used the First Amendment on their side of the argument. They claimed Kennedy’s prayer ritual in front of the public, as an employee of the school, could be viewed as a “district endorsement of religion.”
But Kennedy held firm, and turned to the First Liberty Institute, a group that defends religious liberty for citizens.
They petitioned the school to make a religious accommodation, via Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Kennedy simply wanted 15 seconds after games to keel and pray when players weren’t on the field.
However, that request was denied.
It didn’t stop the determined football coach, though. He continued to take a knee and pray, so the school fired him. After that, the first lawsuit came from First Liberty.
What followed was a series of petitions and appeals; one federal court dismissed the suit, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled against Kennedy.
The battle isn’t over yet, though — in fact, it’s really only just beginning for the football coach who refused to let his rights be trampled upon. And the Supreme Court’s decision will be momentous.
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Said First Liberty Institute General Counsel Mike Berry:
We are grateful the Supreme Court has agreed to review Coach Kennedy’s case.
This case has massive implications for religious liberty for millions of Americans, and we are hopeful the Court will correct the injustice that occurred here.
For his part, Kennedy said he’s “extremely grateful” that the high court will hear his case, and he hopes to soon return to the field “coaching the game and players I love.”