‘The First Amendment Is Live And Well’: Football Coach Fired For Prayer Celebrates SCOTUS Win

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Nicole Silverio Media Reporter
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Joe Kennedy, the high school football coach fired for praying on the field, celebrated the Supreme Court ruling in his favor during a Monday appearance on “The Faulkner Focus.”

Kennedy’s employer, the Bremerton School District, terminated his employment in 2015 for violating his employer’s demand to stop saying a prayer on the 50-yard line after games. The Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that the school district violated his rights to the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment.

“I really don’t know what to say, I just can’t stop smiling,” Kennedy said. “Thank God and thank everybody that supported me, and I found out that I’m not insane. It’s absolutely true to all the facts of the case, and it just feels good to know that the First Amendment is live and well.”


He intends to return to the school district “as soon as” it invites him back, Kennedy said.

“I expect some phone calls today from them,” he said.

His attorney, First Liberty Institute CEO Kelly Shackelford, argued Free Speech and Free Exercise are protected under the First Amendment and therefore a school does not have the right to infringe upon them. (RELATED: Praying  Football Coach Will Sue Washington School District For Refusing To Let Him Pray)

“This idea that somehow if players see him across the field, that that is enough to take away his First Amendment rights, not only a coach but a guy who spent 20 years in the Marines fighting for our freedoms, that’s not the way this country works,” Shackelford said. “I think everybody’s going to see that and I’m so glad for Joe. Six years of fighting, he will be back on that field, that’s what the case was about. He didn’t ask for money, he just wanted his job back and to be able to go on the field after the game and pray.”

Kennedy then said that the First Amendment applies to everyone in the U.S. regardless of their religion and that his case solidifies a citizen’s right to pray in public.

“Everybody was keeping their eye on all of this to see what the rights were going to be, are they going to be taken away,” he said. “And it just shows that it doesn’t matter what your faith is or if you have no faith. It just proves that this is America and the First Amendment applies and no one should have to worry about just because you want to thank God, you can do it now and that’s just an awesome thing for everybody.”

“I fought for the right thing and ended up winning,” he continued. “And knowing that justice is done and freedoms are good.”

The majority opinion, authored by Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, stated that the Constitution “neither mandates nor tolerates” restrictions or discrimination toward individual religious expression. Gorsuch was joined by Justices John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh in filing the majority opinion, while Associate Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan filed a dissenting opinion.

“Respect for religious expressions is indispensable to life in a free and diverse Republic,” Gorsuch wrote. “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.”

Kennedy first filed suit in 2016 with the First Liberty Institute as his legal counsel, then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit, who both sided with the school district.