The legal fight by coach Joe Kennedy, which dates back to 2015, has been up and down the court system ever since the Bremerton High assistant coach was warned by the district superintendent to stop kneeling after home games and was fired when he refused to do so.
Kennedy, who is represented by First Liberty Institute, filed a religious discrimination complaint with the EEOC after he was fired, and his case has been ongoing ever since.
According to First Liberty, it has now filed a second appeal to the nation’s highest court, where the justices refused to hear the case in 2019. At the time, however, four conservative justices expressed concern in written opinions over the 9th Circuit decision.
It takes four of nine justices to accept to hear a case so those concerns from two years ago likely give hope to Kennedy that his case will finally be heard this time after the justices declined to do so at the time.
Earlier this year, a three-judge panel at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the school district. The full 9th Circuit declined to review that decision over the dissenting opinions of eleven judges.
In its petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, Kennedy's attorneys maintain the 9th Circuit reached a “stunning conclusion” that the Bremerton school district had a “constitutional duty” to prohibit the coach from praying on the basis the district was violating the Establishment Clause if Kennedy, a school employee, was allowed to kneel before the public.
“Adding insult to constitutional injury,” the First Liberty appeal states, “the Ninth Circuit created the ultimate chilling effect by making clear that, in its view, Kennedy had no one to blame but himself for the loss of his First Amendment rights because he purportedly sought to vindicate them in too 'pugilistic' a fashion."
"No American should be forced to choose between their faith and the job they love," Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel at First Liberty, tells American Family News.