Justices said public school district violated coach’s free speech, free exercise.
On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled by a vote of 6-3 in the case of Kennedy v. Bremerton School District high school football coach Joseph Kennedy had a constitutional right to pray at the 50-yard line after his team’s games.
The case reviewed a decision made by a lower court that permitted a Washington state public high school’s head football coach to be terminated for conducting silent, public prayer after school football games.
Kennedy was head coach for the Bremerton High School junior varsity football team in Washington. Bremerton School District fired Kennedy for kneeling alone in silent prayer at midfield after a game.
According to the opinion from Justice Neil Gorsuch, the Constitution and the best of the U.S. traditions “counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.”
“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 Gorsuch continued. “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.”
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said that the Supreme Court’s decision is a tremendous win for America.
“When they try to take prayer out of society, they are trying to undermine our foundational principles,” Reeves tweeted.
When they try to take prayer out of our society, they are trying to undermine our foundational principles.
Tremendous win for free speech and religious freedom…
Just a tremendous win for America! pic.twitter.com/UwyR6oJhQp
— Governor Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) June 27, 2022
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch praised two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that uphold the core rights guaranteed under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise and Free Speech clauses.
“The Founders put these guarantees in the First Amendment because they are so fundamental to all our liberties,” said AG Fitch. “I commend the Court for taking a clear and unequivocal stand for religious liberty and free speech for all Americans in these two cases.”
Two great victories for religious liberty from the Supreme Court in this past week. We have strong guidance from the Court to support our free exercise, our free speech, and a parent’s right to direct their child’s education as they see fit. pic.twitter.com/LIPKfcCMvi
— Lynn Fitch (@LynnFitchAG) June 27, 2022
Mississippi U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) joined an amicus brief led by Senator James Lankford (R-OK) in August urging the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court decision.
“Religious freedom is a bedrock principle enumerated within our Bill of Rights,” Senator Wicker said. “The Supreme Court upheld this principle and our founding documents by coming down on the side of Coach Kennedy. The Court’s protection of the rights of Americans to practice their sincerely-held beliefs is both proper and vital. I will always stand with those who defend one of America’s most sacred traditions and keep the right to religious expression unimpeded.”
Third District Mississippi Congressman Michael Guest said he was proud to join the amicus brief from members of Congress in support of Coach Kennedy before the Supreme Court.
“Religious freedom and the freedom to worship have been preserved,” Guest tweeted.
Religious freedom & the freedom to worship have been preserved. Coach Kennedy defended a foundational principle of our great nation – the right to worship freely. I was proud to join the amicus brief from Members of Congress in support of Coach Kennedy before the Supreme Court. https://t.co/dn6k4MpjPv
— Congressman Michael Guest (@RepMichaelGuest) June 27, 2022
Brett Kitredge, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Empower Mississippi, said that the Supreme Court was right to rule in favor of Joseph Kennedy’s freedom to pray privately after high school football games.
“Americans are free to live out their lives in public. Not only is this protected by the Constitution and important for religious freedom, it is important that all Americans learn how to tolerate and encourage speech in our vastly diverse society,” Kitredge added.
You can read the case of Kennedy v. Bremerton School District below.