BJC on Kennedy v. Bremerton decision: Students will be subject to religious pressure

BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman reacts to the decision on government-sponsored prayer in public schools.

Jun 27, 2022

Media Contact: Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: [email protected]

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 6-3 decision in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, ruling that the school district violated Coach Kennedy’s free exercise and free speech rights.

BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman released the following statement today:  

Today’s Supreme Court ruling undermines religious freedom in public schools by holding that school officials must accommodate a public school teacher’s religious exercise at a school event. The decision flies in the face of decades of decisions that have allowed students to enjoy their religious freedom rights without fear of school-sponsored religious practices. 


This Court pays lip service to religious freedom but throws out any concern about avoiding government pressure on students. Students should not have to worry about whether their religious beliefs will be in or out of favor with their teachers, coaches and administrators, much less be pressured to participate in religious exercises at school. 


While the Supreme Court continues to erode the separation of church and state, public school districts should continue to ensure they protect all students from coercion and religious discrimination. Public schools serve diverse populations, and school officials are properly prohibited from encouraging or discouraging religious activity when acting in their official government capacities. 

BJC (Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty) filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Bremerton School District. The brief was co-authored by Professors Douglas Laycock and Christopher Lund, and it was joined by the American Jewish Committee, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and General Synod of the United Church of Christ. 

You can read more, hear a podcast on the case, and access BJC’s brief at


BJC (Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty) is an 86-year-old religiously based organization working to defend faith freedom for all and protect the institutional separation of church and state in the historic Baptist tradition.