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HS Coach Fired for Praying Takes Appeal to SCOTUS

Andy Berg

A former Washington state high school football coach who was fired for holding post-game prayers with his players is taking his case to the Supreme Court.

Joe Kennedy lost his latest court appeal on Monday, after which his legal team announced that they would appeal to the highest court in the land.

Kennedy claims his first amendment rights were violated by Bremerton School District after he was issued an order to end his prayer sessions while on the field with players.

According to Fox News, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declined to rehear arguments challenging a ruling by a district court in favor of the school district.

"We will appeal and are confident that the Supreme Court of the United States will right this wrong," Jeff Mateer, First Liberty Institute’s chief legal officer who is representing Kennedy said. "Banning coaches from praying just because they can be seen contradicts the Constitution."

Kennedy was first suspended and then fired in 2015 after he refused to stop saying prayers on the field while acting as a public school coach. Kennedy’s prayers would begin on the field by himself where he was later joined by players.

The schools said he was never reprimanded for silently praying on his own.

"The Ninth Circuit made the right call: The Bremerton School District was correct to protect the religious freedom of its students and their families," Richard Katskee, legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the school district's legal team, said in a statement to Fox News. "The Constitution requires public schools to provide an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students…that includes ensuring that student-athletes don’t feel compelled to pray or participate in religious activities to secure their place on a team."

The Ninth Circuit said that Kennedy “spoke as a public employee,” which bars him from engaging in religious activity.

The appeals court also noted that the school offered Kennedy “a private location within the school building, athletic facility, or press box” before or after the game for private prayer.

This will be the second time Kennedy has appealed to the Supreme Court. In 2019, the Supreme Court sent his case back to the lower courts.

The legal team representing Bremerton School District panned the move by Kennedy, asking the Supreme Court to throw out the case.

"If the Supreme Court is interested in a case about personal, private religious activity by public-school employees, this just isn’t that case," Katskee told Fox News. "And it certainly shouldn’t have any stomach for undermining the religious freedom of the students and their families."

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