On April 25, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District.
Bremerton School District in Washington state removed Coach Joe Kennedy from his job as a public high school football coach after kneeling in brief, quiet prayer on the field after football games. Coach Kennedy filed suit alleging that the school district’s ban on “demonstrative religious activity” violated his First Amendment rights under the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses.
In 2019, on appeal of the denial of a preliminary injunction, the U.S. Supreme Court declined the petition for review, allowing further factual development. Justice Alito, joined by Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh, issued a statement respecting the denial of certiorari, writing that the “Ninth Circuit’s understanding of the free speech rights of public school teachers is troubling and may justify review in the future.”
This year, the Supreme Court granted cert on two questions concerning the interplay of the Free Speech, Free Exercise, and Establishment Clauses:
- Whether a public-school employee who says a brief, quiet prayer by himself while at school and visible to students is engaged in government speech that lacks any First Amendment protection.
- Whether, assuming that such religious expression is private and protected by the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses, the Establishment Clause nevertheless compels public schools to prohibit it.
We will break down the argument on the same day, April 25, 2022.
Stephanie Taub, Senior Counsel, First Liberty
Note: Coach Kennedy is represented by Kirkland & Ellis and First Liberty Institute.
As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.