Supreme Court Rules In Favor of Public School Coach Who Led Prayers on the Field

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a football coach who led prayers on the field, further eroding the separation of church and state, CNN reports.

The court in a 6-3 opinion ruled that a Washington state school district violated the First Amendment rights of high school football coach Joe Kennedy by firing him for leading prayers at the 50-yard line.

"The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike," Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion.

Gorsuch argued that public entities do not necessarily violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution by allowing public religious expression.

"We are aware of no historically sound understanding of the Establishment Clause that begins to '(make) it necessary for government to be hostile to religion' in this way," Gorsuch wrote.

The Establishment Clause of the Constitution says Congress can "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Liberals dissent:

The court’s three liberals argued that the panel weakened the Constitution’s protections in order to protect religious freedom.

"It elevates one individual's interest in personal religious exercise, in the exact time and place of that individual's choosing, over society's interest in protecting the separation between church and state, eroding the protections for religious liberty for all," Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote.

Sotomayor also included photos of the prayer, which included players.

"As the majority tells it, Kennedy, a coach for the District's football program, 'lost his job' for '(praying) quietly while his students were otherwise occupied,'" she wrote. "The record before us, however, tells a different story."

Court targets church-state separation:

"Today's ruling is the court's second major expansion of constitutional protections for religion in six days," Steven Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, told CNN.

"Last week, the court made it harder for states to decline to fund religious education,” he said. “Today, the court is making it harder for secular schools to keep religion out of extracurricular activities, like high school football. In the name of defending religious exercise, the court's conservative majority has neutered the First Amendment's other reference to religion -- its prohibition of state sanctioning of it."

 

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