SCOTUS Votes 6-3 Again

Wall Street Journal, 28 June 2022, Page One: SUPREME COURT RULES COACH CAN PRAY ON FIELD AFTER GAME

Byline: Jess Bravin

Writing for the court, Justice Neil Gorsuch said coach Joe Kennedy’s prayers were private speech that couldn’t be construed as representing the school district and were protected by the First Amendment.

The court rejected arguments that the public devotions could be seen as coercive particularly to the players, who depend on the coach’s approval on matters ranging from time on the field to college recommendations.

Students who might feel discomfort with Mr. Kennedy’s evangelical Christian prayers should consider it a lesson, for “learning how to tolerate speech or prayer of all kinds is part of learning how to live in a pluralistic society,” Justice Gorsuch wrote.

Dissenting Opinion by Justice Sonia Sotomayor:

  • The First Amendment prohibits official “establishment of religion” to elevate another, in the clause protecting the “free exercise of faith.” The decision by the majority “elevates one individual’s interest in personal religious exercise, in the exact time and place of that individual’s choosing, over society’s interest in protecting the separation between church and state, eroding the protections for religious liberty for all.” This decision of the majority was “particularly misguided because it elevates the religious rights of a school official, who voluntarily accepted public employment and the limits that public employment entails, over those of his students, who are required to attend school and who this Court has long recognized are particularly vulnerable and deserving of protection.”

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