Some prayers do get answered – at least partially. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case of high school football coach Joseph A. Kennedy, who was pushed out of his job by school board officials in Bremerton, Washington, after he defied their order to refrain from kneeling and praying at the 50-yard line after his team’s games.
As we’ve noted before, this case has been something of a judicial football, with one “turnover” after another before the courts. Now it has finally landed for what should be the final quarter, this time with Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who has been notably interested in the free exercise of religion throughout her career.
It is not surprising that the Court is hearing a case that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to rehear over the objections of 11 judges. Justice Samuel A. Alito wrote for several other justices in 2019 that language from the Ninth Circuit “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.”
Allowing public employees to pray on private time sounds like a reasonable standard, one we hope the Court will uphold.