Attorney General Ken Paxton celebrated a major win for religious liberty as the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Coach Joseph Kennedy’s claim against a school district that fired him for engaging in public prayer after football games at Bremerton High School in Washington state -- sometimes including athletes who wished to participate. The school district claimed that Coach Kennedy’s on-field prayers violated the First Amendment.
In October 2021, Attorney General Paxton and a coalition of 22 other states urged the Supreme Court to take up the erroneous decision against Coach Kennedy reached by the San Franciso-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Supreme Court granted the petition, and in March 2022, Texas co-led a multi-state amicus brief with Arizona, Alaska, and Florida in support of the merits of Coach Kennedy’s case.
Just yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Coach Kennedy consistent with the arguments Attorney General Paxton set forth in his briefing: “Both the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect expressions like Mr. Kennedy’s,” Justice Gorsuch wrote for the majority. “The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.”
“Coach Kennedy was doing what high school football coaches all over the country do: praying a prayer of thanksgiving on the field,” said Attorney General Paxton. “I am overjoyed that the Supreme Court held that nothing about this violated the U.S. Constitution. My prayer is that more coaches will now feel free to exercise their First Amendment rights like Coach Kennedy did.”
Read the 6-3 Supreme Court opinion here.