WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — In a big win for Joe Kennedy, the Supreme Court ruled the former football coach has a constitutional right to pray on the field, a ruling celebrated by those gathered outside the court.
“We can pray on football fields, we can pray in schools, ain’t nobody can stop us.”
First Liberty Attorney Stephanie Taub, says this is a victory for all religious Americans.
“They do have a right to religious expression, they do have a right to their religious identity and can’t be treated as second-class citizens just because of that,” Taub said.
The Supreme Court ruled a government entity cannot punish someone for religious observance. Sarah Perry with the Heritage Foundation says in Kennedy’s case, he was not promoting a religious message.
“He was simply a private individual, taking a minute between one duty and another…the outcome in this case is both encouraging and a reminder of the importance of our individual freedoms,” Perry said.
“It opens the door to much more coercive prayer in our public schools,” American United CEO Rachel Laser said.
Laser says today’s ruling will hurt students of different faiths.
“Religious freedom is not the right to use your power as an agent of the state and a public school coach to impose your beliefs on students,” Laser said.
And Laser believes this decision tears down the wall between church and state.
“That is a shocking thing to happen and to have come from one of the three branches of the American government that is founded upon this principle,” Laser said.
Americans United warns parents that students may feel compelled to participate in religious practices as a way of fitting in or winning the approval of school staff.
Coach Kennedy lives in Florida, but plans to return to the state of Washington to coach football again.