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Football Coach Back on the Field After Winning Religious Lawsuit

October 31st, 2023

A federal judge will rule in a prayer lawsuit over whether an athletic association violated the first amendment rights of a Christian school.
A football coach who recently won his religious freedom lawsuit against a public school mulls whether to return to his old post.

All too often, people who dare to challenge the status quo have their careers destroyed. Even if they win their lawsuits, the publicity and the negative stigma might follow them for the rest of their lives. Such is often the case with religious lawsuits, as the topic is inherently divisive in the United States. However, there are a few rare cases where people win their religious lawsuits and return to their careers – continuing their lives as if nothing happened. These moments remind us that it’s worth fighting for our religious freedoms in the United States – and these legal battles do not necessarily have to be life-changing. Such was the case for a football coach in Washington State.

Football Coach Returns to Work After Religious Lawsuit

On September 1, it was reported that a football coach had returned to the field after winning his religious lawsuit in the Supreme Court. The coach had initially sparked concerns after leading on-field prayers during high school football games. Back in 2015, the school asked him to refrain from praying on the football field and to keep his religious practices private. It seems as though the assistant coach declined to follow this order, which led to him being placed on leave. Ultimately, he declined to renew his contract – ostensibly not wanting to work for an organization that did not respect his freedom to express his religious views. 

Football Coach Thought to be Violating the Separation of Church and State

The school argued that the football coach was violating the age-old American doctrine of separating church and state by praying on the field. In other words, the school was afraid that they would be subjected to legal action if they continued to allow these prayers. In response, the coach decided to take on his own legal battle. However, he encountered serious issues along the way. Despite earning praise from various religious groups across the nation, he lost at every level until the case reached the Supreme Court. At this point, conservative judges took his side and agreed that he should be reinstated. 

In an official statement reacting to the court’s decision, the school announced:

“We look forward to moving past the distraction of this nearly eight-year legal battle so that our school community can focus on what matters most: providing our children the best education possible.”

Moving Beyond Football?

The victory seems bittersweet, according to this coach. He began the legal battle eight years ago, and he seems to indicate that returning to the field seems foreign. “Obviously it’s not going to be football forever,” said the coach. It is unclear whether he will actually get down on one knee and pray on the field, as he once did. The coach also has new opportunities to consider, as he is now associated with Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis – both presidential hopefuls. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but this case illustrates that the separation of church and state is actually somewhat subjective, especially when Supreme Court cases are more likely to be heard by conservative judges.

The Goal of the Universal Life Church’s Blog

Each week, the Universal Life Church’s blog focuses on documenting the most noteworthy cases involving the required separation between church and state. Despite required Constitutional separation, many fear that the Supreme Court’s current majority could erode these foundational constitutional principles. What is clear is the conflict between religious freedom and the separation of church and state will undoubtedly continue to be a key issue for many years to come in the United States.

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