Supreme Court on Monday will hear arguments in a high-profile case involving high school football coach who got a reprimand for post-match prayers on in football field 50-yard line.
The dispute has drawn dozens of briefs from interest groups on both sides, with religious freedom advocates urge 6-3 conservative the majority court to put forward their cause, while the supporters of the school asked justices lie down marker on separation of church and state.
One unusual twist that makes it difficult to estimate the stakes in this case is that coach Joseph Kennedy and Seattlearea the school district offered starkly contrasting reports of what happened. depending on what facts the court finds most persuasive, the case may be dismissed quietly, or it may become a watershed in First amendment to the law.
“BUT real question for the court to decide version of facts they agree with. And to some extent, such a decision may well solve the case, ”said David Gosset, partner at Davis Wright Tremaine. who supported the school district in a summary of amicus featuring reports from former professional and student athletes and coaches.
In the dispute on Monday, Kennedy, a devout Christian, will face against the school district of Bremerton, Washington, where he worked until his contract expired.
Beginning in 2008, Kennedy got on his knees on in football field after games and holding a short prayer. After all, many of his players joined him, like the members of opposite teams. This continued without formal complaint until 2015, when the school ordered Kennedy to stop.
Administration says Kennedy’s behavior violated school rules policy which prohibited staff from encouraging students to participate in prayer or other religious activity. record also shows that one player atheist, was afraid that not joining Kennedy midfield prayer “will negatively affect him playing time.”
Kennedy went on defy the order of the school and was placed on administrative leave. he did not reapply for his work after the end of the contract in 2015. He later filed a lawsuit alleging that the school violated his First Amendment speech and religious rights. in disciplining him for his private religious expression.
The two sides drew very different versions of in events leading up to litigation. Kennedy portrays himself as just doing in quiet, private and private closing prayer of games. school district, for of his part, depicts Kennedy as leading a highly publicized and subversive campaign promote their right to religious demonstration at school event.
Federal District Court in Washington on the side with school. The judge concluded that Kennedy’s conduct was not protected by the Constitution because he acted in his ability as public employee.
Kennedy appealed, but was again rejected. Unanimous decision of three judges panel of A federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled that the Bremerton School District (BSD) would have violated the Constitution’s prohibition. on government support of religion, “allowing Kennedy to pray at the end of football games, in Centre of field, with pupils who felt the pressure join his.”
Kennedy’s attempts to draw the attention of the whole country to his challenge to BSD leads to the conclusion that he was not engaged in private prayer, but instead attraction in public speech of overtly religious nature in the performance of their official duties, panel of judges on US court of Appeals for – wrote the 9th district.
While Kennedy appeals to the Supreme Court on Monday, he joined by number of outside supporters. Among them is the American Center for Law and Justice led by Trump ally Jay Sekulow.
Sekulova group claims that the court should use matter how vehicle permanently erase off books any leftovers of his landmark 1971 ruling in Lemon vs. Kurtzman, who created the legal test for the dimension of the separation of church and state under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which conservatives have long argued, goes too far. in service of secularism.
“As evidenced by almost half century of often harsh criticism from scholars, members of this court and lower judges, Lemon is poorly argued, ”Sekulov wrote. in summary of amicus. “Its fundamental flaw, of of course, in that it is not tied to original meaning of establishment clause. deprived of sound doctrinal foundations, Lemon is elastic and unprincipled.
school district also supporters rallied around him, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which called for justices confirm the decision of the 9th district.
In a note, the amicus ACLU told the court that the speech on-duty school officials in a school-sponsored event e.g. high school football game “has strict permission of school.”
“Public schools should welcome students of all religions and of no one”, group wrote. “This obligation is violated when school officials take it upon themselves to transmit (intentionally or not) religious messages.”
group added“So public schools have duty prevent them personnel from participation in behavior What will happen place school approval on religious teaching or activity.
Brief overview of amicus by Gosset, of law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, includes testimony former professional and college athletes who tell it to coachguided prayer is “inherently coercive” on team members.
” record here it is demonstrated that Mr. Kennedy’s actions were inclined and indeed lead players feel compelled to participate in Mr. Kennedy’s expressions of faith even if they chose not to,” they wrote. “Accordingly, the amici urge the Court to confirm decision of Ninth District below and reaffirm the fundamental principle that in captivity of a public school, ‘ government cannot force [children] to support or participate in religion or its application.
The school district may be in for tough fight given that conservative- Supreme Court prevails in recent years tend to be very sympathetic to religious interests.
Kennedy v. Bremerton School District will be heard on Monday. with a decision expected by summer.