U.S. Supreme Court Takes Up High School Coach’s Prayer Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a prayer-related case involving a high school football coach.  Joseph Kennedy, a high school football coach, engaged in prayer with a number of students during and after school games. The Bremerton School District in Washington state asked that he discontinue the practice.  The district was concerned about liability based on a potential violation of the First Amendment Establishment Clause.

Kennedy refused to discontinue his prayer practices and was able to rally widespread public support. After his termination, Kennedy sued the school district for violating his rights under the First Amendment and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The trial court held that because the school district suspended him solely because of the risk of constitutional liability associated with his religious conduct, its actions were justified. Kennedy appealed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed.

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether a public school employee’s prayer during school sports activities is protected speech.  If so, can a public school district prevent such practices to avoid violating the Establishment Clause?

The case is Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, Dkt. No. 21-418, and the Ninth Circuit opinion can be found here. The Supreme Court has not set oral argument in this case.

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