Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford led an amicus brief signed by 12 senators and 14 House members in support of Joe Kennedy, a high school football coach who was terminated over his post-game prayers at midfield.
Kennedy served as head coach of Bremerton High School’s junior varsity team and assistant coach of the varsity team. At the conclusion of each game, Kennedy privately prayed on bended knee at midfield.
The coach continued his prayers despite a letter from the school to demand Kennedy to stop praying after games in 2015. His contract was not renewed, resulting in his termination.
Kennedy filed a lawsuit against the Bremerton School District that was dismissed by a federal district court. After an appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled against the coach. After the Supreme Court denied the case, it returned to the Ninth Circuit Court that upheld its previous decision.
Lankford’s amicus brief requests the Supreme Court to review and reverse the lower court’s decision.
“Our government does not have the authority to force you to practice your faith in the space of its choosing. My colleagues and I are standing up for Coach Kennedy’s right to live his faith — this is his inherent right,” Lankford tweeted Tuesday.
Our government does not have the authority to force you to practice your faith in the space of its choosing. My colleagues and I are standing up for Coach Kennedy’s right to live his faith—this is his inherent right. https://t.co/TFYliUxJl2
— Sen. James Lankford (@SenatorLankford) October 19, 2021
“In America, we have more than the freedom of worship; we have the free exercise of religion,” Lankford wrote in a news release.
“Each person can have a faith, change their faith, or have no faith. In this case, the school district wanted to choose the time and place for private prayer for one of its employees. Our government does not have the authority to force anyone to practice your faith in the time and space of its choosing,” he added.
Lankford emphasized the government’s inability to restrict a person’s inherent right to faith.
“Government cannot and should not restrict a person praying over their lunch, wearing a crucifix, having a copy of scripture on their desk or kneeling to pray silently after a football game. The right to live your faith is one of the most basic principles recognized by our Constitution. Coach Kennedy’s right to live his faith is his inherent right,” he wrote.
Missouri Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who is co-leading the brief for the House, commented on the issue, as well.
“America is the land of many freedoms which include religion and speech. These God-given rights are central to our nation’s founding and have guided the United States for centuries,” Hartzler said.
“Today, these principles are being challenged and stand at risk of being diminished. We are currently seeing this with Bremerton (WA) School District Coach Joe Kennedy, who exercised his right to practice his faith yet ended up losing his career and livelihood as a result. I urge the Supreme Court to consider his case and right this wrong for the sake of America’s precious freedoms,” she added.
“It is absurd to label an act of obvious personal gratitude and humility governmental speech that is prohibited by the Constitution,” the amicus brief said.
“Indeed, it is commonplace in our Republic for public officials to pray aloud in front of public audiences, which has since the time of the Founding been understood to be a permissible and healthy expression of the personal faith of the speaker, rather than an impermissible endorsement of religion by the government,” it added.
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