Supreme Court Protects Public School Coach’s Ability to Lead Students in Prayer

The Supreme Court justices continued their far-right crusade Monday, handing down a decisionThat could be. open the doorPublic school teachers can compel students to pray with them, eroding the freedom of prayer. already thinSeparation of Church and State in the U.S.

In a 6 to 3 decision, the Supreme Court’s extremist right-wing members ruled in favor of a Christian high school football coach in Bremerton, Washington, who has for years led students in prayer after games — and at one point, in the locker room — though he has reportedly stopped the practice. The Court’s three liberal justices dissented.

The justices overturned a lower court’s finding that the coach’s actions violated laws disallowing public schools from promoting religion. The majority of the decision was made by Justice Neil Gorsuch all six of whom are Christian, saying that the coach, Joseph Kennedy, didn’t coerce the students into prayer, and claiming that Kennedy had merely offered a personal prayer, meant only for himself.

Kennedy could have been punished or banned from praying after the games, according to the majority. This would have been a violation of his religious freedom.

However, dissenting justices argued that the opposite is true, and that it is students’ religious rights that are being trampled because of public schools’ disproportionate influence on their religious beliefs. “This decision does a disservice to schools and the young citizens they serve, as well as to our Nation’s longstanding commitment to the separation of church and state,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in the dissenting decision.

The majority decision once again weakens the division between modern religious freedoms and historical limits to individuals’ religious practices, Sotomayor continued. She stated that Kennedy was never penalized for his private prayers.

Rather, the school district took issue with the fact that Kennedy had invited the players to join in his prayers — a practice that Gorsuch even acknowledged in the majority ruling — and appeared on the local mediaKennedy began to pray with his students and discussed the prayers so often that it became a well-known practice. Kennedy was also a well-known figure in the community. a celebrityThe Christian right.

“Today’s decision is particularly misguided because it elevates the religious rights of a school official, who voluntarily accepted public employment and the limits that public employment entails, over those of his students, who are required to attend school,” Sotomayor wrote. “In doing so, the Court sets us further down a perilous path in forcing States to entangle themselves with religion, with all of our rights hanging in the balance.”

This is a great decision. of many recentDecisions in support of religious plaintiffs often Christian, including a May ruling that required the state of Maine in another decision to offer tuition aid for religious private schools. We will continue to engrain “a far right vision of the role of religion in U.S. society,” as Sasha Abramsky wrote for Truthout.

The consequences of Monday’s ruling could be devastating for students and teachers of minority faiths in the U.S., opponents of the Court’s decision say. The justices’ ruling “could leave public schools vulnerable to religious displays from staff and educators,” wrote New York Magazine’s Sarah Jones. “Even if they aren’t forced to participate in prayer, social pressure could coerce them into feeling as though they must.”