On June 27 the Supreme Court sided with a Washington state high school football coach who left his job after school officials demanded he stop praying on the field after games.
The court ruled 6–3 in favor of Joe Kennedy, an 18-year Marine veteran and assistant coach for the Bremerton High School varsity football team, who for years prayed on the 50-yard line at the end of games.
As students began to join him, the school district expressed concerns Kennedy’s prayers would be seen as a violation of students’ religious freedom rights. Kennedy stopped leading students in prayer on the field and in the locker room but continued to pray on the field himself. When Kennedy and the school could not agree on the coach’s right to do so, Kennedy voluntarily resigned his position but challenged the school’s policy.
Respect for religious expression
Writing for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch said, “Respect for religious expressions is indispensable to life in a free and diverse Republic.”
Brent Leatherwood, acting president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the decision is a religious expression victory for teachers and coaches to privately express their deeply held beliefs while working for schools.
“As any Christian knows, our faith is deeply personal and rightly shapes every aspect of our lives,” Leatherwood said in a statement.