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Supreme Court to Reconsider Issue of School Prayer

June 10th, 2022

A high school football coach vowed to appeal after the 9th Circuit upheld a decision to ban him from praying on the field at the end of games.
The Supreme Court will revisit the issue of school prayer after it heard the case of a football coach who was fired for praying on the field.

After Joe Kennedy was offered a job as a high school football coach in Washington state, he started praying after games. Kennedy was curious whether God agreed with his career change and accepted the position that would impact his faith. Kennedy claims that he left this prayer with confidence that God wanted him to coach as well as continue praying. Between 2008 to 2015, Kennedy bowed his head after every high school football game and thanked God. A case regarding Kennedy’s prayer activity is now about to be heard by the United States Supreme Court and has the potential to change how school prayer is handled.

The Story Behind the School Prayer

Kennedy’s prayer routine ended up catching on with each of the players as well as participants of rival teams. What began as a lone habit became a communal experience similar to prayer circles. In 2015, however, Kennedy navigated his eight-season as an assistant coach for the varsity team and head coach for the junior varsity team. Kennedy was told during this time that public schools are prohibited from endorsing religion. The coach was also asked to return to solo prayer. Kennedy first followed these orders. Later, after speaking with his attorney, the coach and school district participated in a legal fight, which almost a decade later remains unresolved.

The Coach’s Argument on School Prayer

Kennedy claims that the school district misinterpreted his intentions. Kennedy’s focus was to quietly express his thanks to God rather than to ignite a cultural dispute. On the opposite side of the argument, the school district as well as its supporters claim something very different. One supporter at the Americans United for Separation of Church and State has commented that the district has a duty to disallow school prayer and protect students as well as keep religious activity out of sporting events. This organization has also commented that parents should have influence over a child’s religious activity instead of public schools or any other state-sponsored actor.

Disagreement Among Legal Experts

The Supreme Court is poised to hear these opposing arguments on school prayer as well as associated issues concerning school workers and the extent of the establishment clause. Even though legal experts are in disagreement about how the case should conclude, they share the perspective that it could result in the court’s most substantial religious freedom decision this term.

Due to a majority of conservative Christian justices on the Supreme Court bench and its tendency to support religious freedom claims, most legal experts anticipate that the coach will prevail. The critical issue is whether the justices will explain their decision as well as what that explanation means for future debates over school prayer. If the justices emphasize religious freedom, they could end up making an influential decision that favors people who want to see increased prayer and religious activity at public schools.

Continue Reading the Universal Life Church’s Blog

Many of the rights connected to prayer in school arise from the United States Constitution. Each week, the Universal Life Church’s blog focuses on the most noteworthy issues concerning public prayer and school. Our blog focuses on documenting these issues in a way that objectively examines both opposing sides in a way that can be easily understood by readers.

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