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SCOTUS Delivers Win For Praying Football Coach

The Supreme Court delivered another conservative victory after overturning Roe v Wade, in the case of a football coach praying on the field post game. According to the majority opinion, the facts of the case were as follows:

Joseph Kennedy began working as a football coach at Bremerton High School in 2008 after nearly two decades of service in the Marine Corps. App. 167. Like many other football players and coaches across the country, Mr. Kennedy made it a practice to give “thanks through prayer on the playing field” at the conclusion of each game. Id., at 168, 171. In his prayers, Mr. Kennedy sought to express gratitude for “what the players had accomplished and for the opportunity to be part of their lives through the game of football.” Id., at 168. Mr. Kennedy offered his prayers after the players and coaches had shaken hands, by taking a knee at the 50-yard line and praying “quiet[ly]” for “approximately 30 seconds.” Id., at 168–169. Initially, Mr. Kennedy prayed on his own. See ibid. But over time, some players asked whether they could pray alongside him. 991 F. 3d 1004, 1010 (CA9 2021); App. 169. Mr. Kennedy responded by saying, “‘This is a free country. You can do what you want.’” Ibid. The number of players who joined Mr. Kennedy eventually grew to include most of the team, at least after some games. Sometimes team members invited opposing players to join. Other times Mr. Kennedy still prayed alone. See ibid. Eventually, Mr. Kennedy began incorporating short motivational speeches with his prayer when others were present. See id., at 170. Separately, the team at times engaged in pregame or postgame prayers in the locker room. It seems this practice was a “school tradition” that predated Mr. Kennedy’s tenure.

In a 6-3 ruling, with a majority opinion authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch, the Supreme Court sided with Joseph Kennedy that his school district violated his First Amendment rights stating that:

Respect for religious expressions is indispensable to life in a free and diverse Republic. Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a personal religious observance, based on a mistaken view that it has a duty to suppress religious observances even as it allows comparable secular speech. The Constitution neither mandates nor tolerates that kind of discrimination. Mr. Kennedy is entitled to summary judgment on his religious exercise and free speech claims.

Coach Kennedy has stated he would return to coaching “in a heartbeat” upon winning the case.

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