"Banning a coach from praying, just because he can be seen by the public, is wrong and violates the Constitution. No American should be forced to choose between their faith and the job they love. We are hopeful the Court will allow Coach Kennedy to once again do what he promised God he would do – kneel at the 50-yard line after a game in which he coaches to say a quiet, personal prayer of thanks."
First Liberty Institute is representing Coach Joe Kennedy in his case against Bremerton High School that has been up and down the court system for years. He was fired for breathing private prayers on the field after football games. Most recently, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the school.
"The Ninth Circuit's decision really hinged on the fact that Coach Kennedy was a public school employee and that if people in the stands or in the public in general could see him praying, then somehow they might interpret that as the government formally establishing religion, as ridiculous as that sounds," explains attorney Mike Berry of First Liberty Institute.
So his firm remains hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will correct that and "ensure that that is not the law in this country."
"At issue is whether a public-school employee who says a brief, quiet prayer by himself while at school and visible to students is engaged in government speech that lacks any First Amendment protection, and (2) whether, assuming that such religious expression is private and protected by the free speech and free exercise clauses, the establishment clause nevertheless compels public schools to prohibit it," says SCOTUSblog.com.
Berry says First Liberty also wants to vindicate Coach Kennedy's rights and "get him reinstated as a coach and back on the field as soon as possible."
The case is Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, 21-418.