CHARLESTON, WV (LOOTPRESS) — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said the U.S. Supreme Court made the correct decision in reaffirming a high school coach’s right to practice his religion and engage in free speech by praying at his school’s football games.
The case concerned religious freedom and whether a private religious activity violated the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government from “establishing” a religion.
The plaintiff, Washington state high school football coach Joseph Kennedy, would pray at midfield after a game. The school district asked him to stop doing so because it violated the board’s policy and (in the board’s view) the U.S. Constitution. After being placed on administrative leave, Kennedy sued the school, arguing the termination violated his right to free speech.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Kennedy’s private act of prayer could be interpreted as government speech, so the school district was justified in curtailing Kennedy’s religious expression.
The Ninth Circuit’s reasoning weaponized the Establishment Clause. The decision could have required a school to root out any religious expression by its employees—even to fire teachers, coaches and staff who will not leave their faith at home.
“The lower court ruling would have threatened religious liberty for all public employees if the Supreme Court had not overturned it,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “The rights of students and parents uncomfortable with religion in the public sphere are no more important than the football coach’s religious rights.”
This ruling by the high court vindicates religious equality, although a school district may still require its employees to avoid coercing or compelling students to adopt favored religious beliefs or practices.
Attorney General Morrisey joined an amicus brief in support of Kennedy. The amicus brief was filed by the West Virginia Attorney General and 23 other state attorneys general.
Read the Supreme Court opinion at: https://bit.ly/3nkVSvy.