The following is excerpted from the Deseret News. To read the full article, CLICK HERE.
The Supreme Court on Monday considered the free speech and religious freedom rights of teachers, coaches and students while hearing a case that could rewrite the rules for prayer in public schools.
During nearly two hours of arguments, the justices debated at what point a private act of faith becomes government endorsement of religion and how far school districts should go to shield young people from potential pressure to engage in religious expression.
The case, Kennedy v. Bremerton, centers on Joe Kennedy, a football coach who got in trouble for praying at the 50-yard line after games. His former employer, Bremerton School District in Washington state, believes his actions amounted to government, rather than private, speech and unlawfully violated the Constitution’s establishment clause.
Although the justices were asked to consider Kennedy’s specific desire to pray at the 50-yard line, much of Monday’s discussion focused on other, hypothetical scenarios that raise similar legal questions.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wondered if a classroom teacher could read the Bible or say a prayer just before the bell rings.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh questioned whether a coach could do the sign of the cross before a football game.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked about a teacher’s ability to host a youth group meeting in his home.
Justice Clarence Thomas wanted to know if a coach praying on the field and a coach taking a knee during the national anthem should be treated the same.
These hypotheticals — and the attorneys’ responses — illustrated how difficult it can be to articulate a simple and clear legal standard. In the courtroom Monday and in schools across the country each year, stakeholders had and have very different ideas about what the First Amendment allows.
To read the full article, CLICK HERE.