Can a high school football coach be fired for praying? Jeremy Dys of First Liberty Institute says the ongoing legal case of Coach Joe Kennedy in Bremerton, Washington is a story that should concern all Americans.
“Coach Kennedy is a good man. When he got out of the Marine Corps, he was asked to consider coaching a high school football team. He decided that every game, he would go to the middle of the field at the end of the game, and offer a silent prayer of thanksgiving. That’s exactly what he did, until somebody complained to the school district about it. The school district took it upon themselves to tell Coach Kennedy he had to stop doing the silent prayer to God and if he didn’t stop that, then he’s going to be suspended.”
“He was suspended for praying by himself taking in center field, and then ultimately, he was fired, kicked off the team and not renewed for this season. So we had to take on Coach Kennedy’s case because nobody should be fired from their job for simply taking a knee and praying.”
First Liberty Institute seeks to defend religious liberty by proving legal help to individuals when their First Amendment rights are threatened. Dys says Coach Kennedy’s case is just one example of a flawed understanding of American freedoms:
“There’s a really bad strain of thought going throughout the country that just because some form of religious speech takes place on state-owned property, that location somehow converts it magically into the speech of the state, which is required to be neutral.”
“Well, that’s just not true. Private speech is still private speech and still protected by the Constitution of the United States.”
This is a threat to freedom of religion that not only endangers Christians but also followers of other religions.
“The school district made it very clear in at least one of their letters that you cannot engage in any demonstrable forms of religious expression on school property. Think about how silly that is. That would mean that only can a coach not pray silently at center field, but your chemistry teacher could not wear a crucifix around her neck, your history teacher could not wear a yarmulke, or your English teacher could not wear a hijab. This is ludicrous. And it is certainly not the type of freedom that our Founding Fathers put into the Constitution.”
Dys says that a full reading of the First Amendment does not support the silencing of private speech, even in public arenas:
“People forget that freedom means freedom. It doesn’t mean that the government gets to tell you where and when you can engage in your religious beliefs. They forget that there are two causes of the First Amendment: one that requires the state to be neutral towards religion, but there is a second clause that says Congress shall make no law regarding the free exercise of religion, which permits private people–even on public property–to be able to exercise their faith.”
To find out more about Coach Kennedy’s case, and many more ongoing legal battles to protect religious freedom, visit First Liberty Institute’s website.Fighting for religious freedom with First Liberty