Saturday, June 15, 2024

SCOTUS: Public Prayer Allowed by School Employees in View of Students

'Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance... '

(Jacob Bruns, Headline USA) A junior varsity football coach from Bremerton School District in Washington state was vindicated by the Supreme Court earlier this week following his 2015 firing for praying at midfield after football games.

Joe Kennedy coached at the school from 2008 to 2015. He prayed post-game by himself, but later on students began to join him.

An opposing coach told the principal about the practice, and Kennedy was instructed to stop. After a short cessation, he informed administrators that he would continue the practice.

Soon after, Kennedy was placed on paid leave, Fox News reported.

At stake was the question of whether or not school employees are allowed to engage in prayer in front of students, or if it was alternatively unprotected “government speech.”

According to the high court, the answer is decidedly “no.”

“Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance doubly protected by the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the Court’s opinion.

He also reasoned that the Constitution allows no discrimination of individuals on such grounds.

“And the only meaningful justification the government offered for its reprisal rested on a mistaken view that it had a duty to ferret out and suppress. Religious observances even as it allows comparable secular speech. The Constitution neither mandates nor tolerates that kind of discrimination.”

The dissenting leftist Elena Kagan remarked that she was concerned about the playing time of the boys, suggesting that Kennedy tried to force them into prayer so that they could start or play more.

In her view, a student might have “felt compelled to participate” in the prayer because “he felt he wouldn’t get to play as much if he didn’t participate.”

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