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Supreme Court to hear Christian football coach fired for praying after games

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of a Christian high school football coach who was fired from his job for praying on the field after games.


The Supreme Court announced Friday it will hear oral arguments in the case Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, in which former Seattle-area football coach, Joe Kennedy, is seeking to reverse a lower court decision that allowed the school district to fire him because fans and students could see him take a knee in silent prayer at the 50-yard line after football games.

In 2016, Kennedy sued the school district after being suspended in 2015 for his practice of praying on the football field after games, accusing officials of violating his religious freedom, and has been fighting the legal battle ever since.

“No teacher or coach should lose their job for simply expressing their faith while in public,” Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of First Liberty, a law firm based in Plano, Texas, which is helping to represent Kennedy, said in a statement. “By taking this important case, the Supreme Court can protect the right of every American to engage in private religious expression, including praying in public, without fear of punishment.”

Paul Clement, former U.S. solicitor general, partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and First Liberty volunteer attorney, said the case “goes to the heart of the First Amendment, to the justices.” A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit had previously ruled against Kennedy in 2017.

In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in the case, sending the case back to the lower court level, with U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Leighton ruling against Kennedy in 2020.  

While the Supreme Court had declined to review the case in January 2019, it allowed the lower courts to continue to develop the factual record.


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