A Washington high school football coach was effectively fired in 2015 for publicly praying on the field after games, sparking widespread debate over whether his termination was justified.
Now, the Washington Examiner reports that former Vice President Mike Pence and a host of prominent conservatives have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the former coach’s case.
Coach defies school’s prayer ban
Bremerton High School instructed Joseph Kennedy to end his practice of praying on the field, arguing that the practice “would lead a reasonable observer to think that the district was endorsing religion.”
The coach continued to pray after games, however, and the school opted not to renew his contract the following year.
Kennedy filed a lawsuit against the district, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately ruled against him. In 2019, the Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal in the case.
Now, the ex-coach is urging the nation’s highest court to take another look — and he has attracted the support of conservative leaders including Pence’s organization Advancing American Freedom.
With more than 70 groups and individuals supporting his case, Kennedy filed an amicus brief in an attempt to present the case to Supreme Court justices.
“This is his inherent right”
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) is among those who have recently signaled support for the cause, as he revealed in a tweet on Tuesday.
“Our government does not have the authority to force you to practice your faith in the space of its choosing,” he wrote. “My colleagues and I are standing up for Coach Kennedy’s right to live his faith—this is his inherent right.”
In a statement supporting the amicus brief, Lanford added: “Government cannot and should not restrict a person praying over their lunch, wearing a crucifix, having a copy of scripture on their desk or kneeling to pray silently after a football game.”
The senator went on to cite the “right to live your faith” as a central tenet of the U.S. Constitution.
Although the high court turned down an opportunity to hear the case two years ago, Kennedy could receive a different reception now. Former President Donald Trump cemented the court’s conservative majority by adding a total of three new justices to the bench. With a 6-3 conservative majority, the Supreme Court might be more sympathetic to Kennedy’s cause.