Christian Football Coach Sacked for Praying after Games Gets Supreme Court Hearing


The case of a Christian high school football coach, Joe Kennedy, who was fired for praying on the field after games will commence hearing by the United States' Supreme Court. 

On Friday, the Supreme Court said it will listen to both parties in the case, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, in which former Seattle-area football coach, Joe Kennedy, desires to reverse the decision of a lower court that permitted the school district to relieve him from his job because of his religious practice.

Kennedy sued the school district in 2016 after he was suspended the previous year for praying on the football field after games. He accused officials of impingement on his religious freedom. He has since been seeking justice.

While commenting on the case, Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of First Liberty, a law firm based in Texas said, “No teacher or coach should lose their job for simply expressing their faith while in public. By taking this important case, the Supreme Court can protect the right of every American to engage in private religious expression, including praying in public, without fear of punishment.”

Also, Paul Clement, former U.S. solicitor general and partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and First Liberty volunteer attorney, said the case “goes to the heart of the First Amendment, to the justices.”

Previously in 2017, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit had ruled against Kennedy. The U.S Supreme Court also refused to hear an appeal in the case in 2019 and refusing to hear an appeal in the case. It sent the case back to the lower court level, with U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Leighton ruling against Kennedy in 2020.  

The Ninth Circuit had again ruled against him in March 2021.

“At that time, four justices (Justice Alito joined by Justices Thomas, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh) attached a statement signaling that the court would be open to hearing the case at a future time, saying in part, ‘The Ninth Circuit’s understanding of the free speech rights of public school teachers is troubling and may justify review in the future,’” First Liberty explained.

“Six years away from the football field has been far too long. I am extremely grateful that the Supreme Court is going to hear my case and pray that I will soon be able to be back on the field coaching the game and players I love, Kennedy said.

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