Oh man. I feel right about the American Christian this week. How will they be treated following the Supreme Court decisions in Roe v. Wade, Maine school funding, and a football coach’s right to pray on the field get to continue playing like society is chasing them?
Well, in their endless creativity (read: madness), they’re sure to find a way. While we await the inevitable argument that it’s not the First Amendment actually Matters in defense of American liberties, only in the second do we take a look at what Kennedy v. Bremerton School District actually means.
High school football coach Joseph Kennedy, a public school employee and therefore a state employee, made headlines this week after a lawsuit he filed against his school district made it all the way to the Supreme Court. Kennedy claimed the school wrongfully terminated his contract after he refused to stop at the school district’s request to publicly lead his football team in post-game prayer on the field, which suggested the prayer be moved to a more private location or to wait until the team had cleared it out.
That damned anti-Christian left! Under the so-called “Constitution” — more specifically, the First Amendment Institutional Clause — which bans the reciting of a prayer of any religion at public school events, including graduation ceremonies and soccer games, both of which were adopted in previous SCOTUS decisions, a precedent now being broken by the ultra-conservative supermajority of that court was overturned.
The interesting thing about this majority decision is that there is a lot of bullshit behind it. The descriptions of Kennedy’s prayers in the verdict are inaccurate at best, depicting the coach as praying quietly and alone on the field, rather than leading the assembled group of students in a very public prayer. Gorsuch wrote that the prayer “was not transmitted as an address to the team,” a statement that has been directly contradicted by both oral and photographic evidence. If Kennedy’s prayer was indeed a quiet, individual matter, the SCOTUS ruling may not have had the meaning it did in the public forum, but since the prayer was public and in some cases compulsory, the inaccurate depiction of the situation on the field does have one opened another door that was once closed between church and state.
Even Brett Kavanaugh asked Kennedy’s attorneys: ‘What about the player who thinks if I don’t do this I won’t start next week? Or the player who, when I take part, thinks me will Start next week? Because every player tries to get on the coach’s good side. And all parents worry about the coach’s bias in terms of starting line-up, playing time, college recommendations, etc.
And yet the court came to a 6-3 verdict in favor a high school football coach who refused to just pray in the locker room as a state employee at work (and, bIncidentally, SCOTUS ruled in 2006 that government employees do not have the right to freedom of expression in the performance of their official duties). Funnily enough, in this case, kneeling on the field is accepted. Perhaps Colin Kaepernick should have said he’s “praying” against police brutality rather than protesting it – since public prayer now seems better protected than the good old First Amendment right to public protest.