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Teachers and coaches deserve their civil rights protected

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Teachers and coaches play a vital role in our country. Yet their intangible influence risks being lost if we fail to protect their civil rights.

Coaches like Joe Kennedy should be celebrated for their commitment to making football players into men. Instead, the Bremerton School District fired him for praying alone after his games.

Kennedy’s early years were filled with struggles and foster care. His adoptive parents once told him that the decision to adopt him was the worst decision they had ever made. Yet it was those same experiences, combined with a career in the US Marine Corps, that made him an excellent coach.

SUPREME COURT TO REVIEW CASE INVOLVING HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL COACH WHO WAS RELEASED FOR PRAYERS ON PITCH

Calling plays and determining playing time was left to the head coach. Kennedy had the job of picking up a kid when he blamed himself for playing poorly, making sure his players had cleats when he couldn’t afford them, feeding his players and even making sure his players homeless had a dry place. sleep at night.

He never envisioned himself as a coach, but when the district athletic director pressed him to consider coaching football, Kennedy agreed to take the weekend off to think about it.

Joe Kennedy coached high school football in Bremerton, Washington.
(First Freedom)

That weekend he came across a football movie – “Facing the Giants” – on television. The film moved him deeply. He knew this was the answer from God he needed. Like the coach in that film, he promised that after the game was over, he would drop to his knees on the battlefield in a quick and quiet moment of prayer.

Eventually, and without any effort on his part, players started joining him. His personal prayer turned into post-game motivational talks steeped in his faith. When an opposing coach complimented the school district, school officials told him that his prayers and religious talk with students had to stop. He stopped immediately, just wanting to get back to his original practice of praying quickly on his own after the game.

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The school’s lawyers, however, informed him that he could not resume his practice of praying alone at the 50-yard line. Instead, they suggested that he cross the field, climb the stairs, cross a training ground, enter the main school building, the hallway and the janitor’s office in order to pray. Not only was that impractical, but it would treat his prayer as something filthy that needed to be hidden.

The Supreme Court building in Washington, DC
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Now Coach Kennedy is in the United States Supreme Court and new school lawyers want to change the facts. They now argue that Coach Kennedy wants to coerce children into praying with him, but this directly contradicts what they said in 2015: “There is indeed no evidence that students were directly coerced into praying with him. Kennedy.”

While Bremerton lawyers now suggest the Bremerton School District punished Coach Kennedy for praying with students, in 2015 school officials admitted his suspension was because while his players were singing the school fight song with the fans, he “knelt on the field and prayed after the game.”

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It’s pretty clear: Bremerton suspended (and later fired) him for praying alone at the 50-yard line.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco found that it would violate the Constitution if students could see coaches (or teachers) like Kennedy engaged in private religious activity. It’s a chilling standard that is sure to drive good teachers and coaches like Kennedy out of the profession nationwide.

FILE - On this April 23, 2021, members of the Supreme Court's file photo pose for a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington.  Seated from left are Associate Justice Samuel Alito, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Standing from left are Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Associate Justice Elena Kagan , Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch and Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

FILE – On this April 23, 2021, members of the Supreme Court’s file photo pose for a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington. Seated from left are Associate Justice Samuel Alito, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Standing from left are Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Associate Justice Elena Kagan , Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch and Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
(AP)

The Supreme Court has a chance on April 25 to change all that. Unless the judges intervene, teachers who can be seen praying during their lunch in the cafeteria may be subject to termination. If a teacher wears a crucifix, yarmulke, or hijab on campus, a school district can fire the teacher or coach for what the Bremerton School District has called “demonstrative religious activity.”

This is not the American brand of freedom that Kennedy fought in the Marine Corps to protect. Ours is a nation that respects the private expression of religion, welcoming that faith as part of who our neighbors are.

No one should have to choose between their faith and the work they love.

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The nation needs good coaches and teachers. We hope the Supreme Court grants Kennedy the only thing he ever asked for: to return to coaching football and be allowed to pray alone at the 50-yard line after the game is over.

Once, some players asked Coach Kennedy if they were allowed to pray after their game. He said “it’s a free country”. Let’s hope that’s still true.

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