Despite being ordered by school district officials to stop his practice of praying with his team after games, high school football coach Joseph Kennedy insists he will continue. The conservative legal group Liberty Institute wrote to the superintendent claiming the order violates Kennedy’s religious freedom rights.
The Seattle Times reports:
The district, however, argues that Kennedy’s long-standing practice of kneeling and praying at the 50-yard line after games, often among a crowd of players and other coaches, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which precludes the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” It also forbids the government from favoring one religion over another.
Leavell said that while the district has concluded that his actions were “entirely well-intentioned,” it has also determined that they are in violation of district policies and the law and are “exposing the district to significant risk of liability.”
Student-led and initiated prayers are one thing, but for a coach to lead prayers on the field, even if players are not technically required to participate, places students in a difficult position that can easily be coercive. The school district is right to be concerned over the constitutionality of such a practice. The school district is right to be concerned over the constitutionality of such a practice.
Sarah Jones of Americans United discusses the situation at the Wall of Separation blog.