AASA Leads Amicus in Key School Prayer Case Before SCOTUS

 Permanent link   All Posts

AASA Leads Amicus in Key School Prayer Case Before SCOTUS

AASA, along with our friends at the National Associations of Elementary and Secondary School Principals, filed an amicus brief in a pivotal Supreme Court case that will be heard later this month called Kennedy v Bremerton.

For more than seven years, Joseph Kennedy, a former assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Washington, delivered prayers to students on the 50-yard line immediately after games. When the Bremerton School District learned what Kennedy was doing, it sought to accommodate his religious beliefs by offering him time and space to pray before and after games where students would not feel coerced to participate. But Kennedy refused, insisting instead that he must be allowed to continue having the midfield prayers with students at games. After he announced to the media his plan to continue having the prayers, community members stormed the field to join him after the game, knocking over some students in the process. The School District was thus left with no choice but to place him on paid administrative leave. And instead of reapplying to be a coach the next year, Kennedy sued the School District in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. Kennedy lost at the district and appellate levels and the case is being heard in a few weeks by the Supreme Court, which surprised many by taking up the case.

The decision to hear the case has led many to speculate that the Court will side with the Kennedy, which would open the door to numerous first amendment issues for district leaders relating to when prayer is and is not acceptable by a school employee and how to draw a line that protects the employee’s religious freedom but protects students from religious coercion and proselytizing. As soon as the case is argued, we will provide an update as well as when a decision is made.