Coach Kennedy, a high school football coach in Washington, was fired for taking a knee and saying a silent prayer after football games. First Liberty fought this case all the way to the Supreme Court and despite the troubling decision, they declined to review his case. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.
On January 22, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States denied Coach Joe Kennedy’s petition to review his case. That’s a setback, but one with a silver lining.
Justice Samuel Alito, writing for Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh, issued a statement accompanying the denial. In one part, Justice Alito explained that the court requires additional information that further litigation should supply. In another, he criticized the Ninth Circuit’s decision, characterizing it as “troubling.”
But then the Justices noted that the petition rested solely on a free speech claim, and not a claim under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. As he explained, that is likely “due to certain decisions of this Court,” namely the 1990 decision of Employment Division v. Smith. Justice Alito observed that the effect of that decision has been to “drastically cut back on the protection provided by the Free Exercise Clause.”
As Coach Kennedy’s attorneys, First Liberty Institute is eager to return to the District Court, answer the questions the justices raised in their statement, and give the Court another opportunity to protect the right of every American to engage in private religious expression, including praying in public, without fear of getting fired.
Thankfully, the Supreme Court seems to understand that banning all coaches from praying just because they can be seen is wrong and contradicts the Constitution.
To learn how First Liberty is protecting religious liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.