Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Who Is Joe Kennedy?

             My VIP for this week is Joe Kennedy, a high school football coach who lost his job because he prayed. As reported by Nicole Russell at The Daily Signal, the Marine Corps veteran filed an appeal for his right to pray on a high school football field.  Kennedy prayed silently after each game played by his Bremerton High School (Washington) football team. He was complimented by a school administrator for his spiritual leadership. However, administrators for the school district told him to stop praying. When he did not, he was suspended from coaching and his contract was not renewed.

            Kennedy took his case to the court system, and the Ninth Circuit ruled against him in 2017. He appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court but was denied. However, some of the justices expressed concern about the decision made by the Ninth Circuit. Justice Samuel Alito, who was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh, made the following statement.

What is perhaps most troubling about the Ninth Circuit’s opinion is language that can be understood to mean that a coach’s duty to serve as a good role model requires the coach to refrain from any manifestation of religious faith – even when the coach is plainly not on duty. I hope that this is not the message that the Ninth Circuit meant to convey, but its opinion can certainly be read that way.

            The case is now back at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Kennedy is no longer alone in fighting for his religious rights. Twenty-one states – including Alaska, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas – filed an amicus or “friend of the court” brief with the appeals court to urge the court to decide in Kennedy’s favor. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson made the following statement about the brief.

No reasonable person would believe that Coach Kennedy’s silent prayers on the football field are government endorsement of religion, so the school district cannot justify its actions under the Establishment clause. The school district’s action demonstrates hostility toward religion. It’s basically saying that public employees cannot exercise their right to worship.

            I hope that Kennedy wins his case this time, and I like the fact that the attorney generals from nearly half the states are supporting him. As Russell emphasizes, this is “not only Kennedy’s religious right, it’s all of ours.” He did not violate the Constitution, and he did not involve any of the teenagers in his prayers. He did not even pray vocally, even though he apparently took an attitude of prayer.

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