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Case Page: Kennedy v. Bremerton School District

by | Jun 27, 2022 | Case | 0 comments

Coach Joseph Kennedy was fired from his job as a high school football coach in the Bremerton School District after he knelt at midfield after games to offer a quiet personal prayer.  The school allowed other on-duty employees to engage in personal secular conduct at the time but would not allow Coach Kennedy to engage in his personal religious conduct.  

The Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect an individual engaging in a personal religious observance from government reprisal; the Constitution neither mandates nor permits the government to suppress such religious expression. The U.S. Supreme Court found in favor of Coach Kennedy’s Free Speech and Religious Exercise claims, and held in part:

A government entity’s concerns about phantom constitutional violations do not justify actual violations of an individual’s First Amendment rights. Respect for religious expressions is indispensable to life in a free and diverse Republic. Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a personal religious observance, based on a mistaken view that it has a duty to suppress religious observances even as it allows comparable secular speech. The Constitution neither mandates nor tolerates that kind of discrimination.