This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments over a Washington state high school coach who was put on paid leave after he refused to stop playing at football games.
The case may give some on the left reason to worry, as The New York Times reported on Monday that the Court’s conservative justices seem sympathetic to the coach’s case.
Justice Alito asks if coach would have been allowed to protest for left-wing causes
According to Times contributor Adam Liptak, coach Joseph Kennedy made it a regular practice to pray on the 50-yard line following each football game.
However, the Bremerton School District ordered him to stop on the grounds that his behavior violated an official policy of neither encouraging nor discouraging religion. Kennedy’s lawyer argued that the rule violates the 1st Amendment.
Liptak noted that Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. at one point asked whether Kennedy would have faced discipline if instead of praying he had stood up to protest climate change, racial injustice, or the invasion of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wanted to know if the school board thought it could “fire the coach for the sign of the cross right before the game.”
Coach says he won’t hide his faith
One issue which came up was an accommodation that the school board offered in which Kennedy would be allowed to pray in a private location.
However, the coach told CNN in an interview this week that he had two reasons for rejecting the school board’s accommodation offer.
“They said I could pray as long as it didn’t interfere with my coaching duties … but the accommodations they gave me completely removed me for a long period of time away from the very job I had been hired to do,” he said.
Kennedy went on to say that he didn’t feel comfortable with an accommodation plan which required him to “hide” his faith.
“There is nothing wrong with prayer — I don’t care who you pray toward if you have faith or do not have faith — you have the same rights across the board as all Americans of any belief,” Kennedy insisted.
Later, the football coach went on to add that he was surprised by the degree of controversy that his lawsuit has raised, saying, “It was such a small thing for such a small amount of time, I’m actually lost on the whole situation — it makes no sense to me,” he remarked.