On June 27, 2022, following a seven-year legal battle, Christian football coach Joe Kennedy won his public prayer case before the Supreme Court of the United States.
Coach Kennedy was an assistant coach at Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Washington. After football games, Coach Kennedy had a habit of praying at the 50-yard line on the football field. Concerned that the coach’s prayers might create legal problems, the school district asked Coach Kennedy to find a more private prayer location; he declined. The district gave Coach Kennedy a negative performance evaluation and suspended him, and he did not seek renewal of his contract after the 2015 season ended.
Coach Kennedy then sued, claiming First Amendment violations. Lower federal courts ruled in favor of the school district. However, in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Coach Kennedy’s favor. Writing for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch found that the school district had violated Coach Kennedy’s rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion, and that the First Amendment’s ban on government-sponsored religion does not “require the government to single out private religious speech for special disfavor.” Justice Gorsuch added that “the Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.”
New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms thanks the Supreme Court for its decision in this case. A public employee praying in the workplace during off-duty time does not shed his or her First Amendment rights.