S3, Ep. 14: #NoPrayToPlay: Previewing the Kennedy v. Bremerton case

Teachers are not to lead in religious exercises, and coaches for all the great work they do to be mentors are not authorized to lead in religious exercises or denigrate religion while in their official capacity.

Apr 14, 2022

A public high school football coach is claiming a right to pray with students on the 50-yard-line immediately after the game while still on duty. What’s the best way to protect religious freedom for everyone in this situation? Amanda and Holly talk about the Supreme Court case of Kennedy v. Bremerton, what’s at stake, and how various groups are portraying what really happened. They go over BJC’s brief, which works to find a solution for everyone that protects the rights of students to be free to make their own choices about what religious practices they want to do and when to do so. Amanda and Holly also discuss the lines between private practice and government speech, and the different rights of students – who are compelled to be at school – and government employees, who represent the government. 

Segment 1: What is going on in this case? Outlining the facts and setting the record straight (starting at 00:50)

In episode 10, Amanda and Holly discussed Shurtleff v. Boston, the flag-raising case at Boston City Hall.

BJC filed a brief in the Kennedy v. Bremerton case, defending students’ rights to religious liberty. You can read the brief here, and read more about it on our website in this article: BJC urges Supreme Court to reject high school coach’s defense of on-field prayers with students.

BJC’s brief was led by Holly and BJC Associate General Counsel Jennifer Hawks, and it was written by church-state scholars Douglas Laycock and Christopher Lund.


Segment 2: Previewing the oral arguments (starting at 16:30)

Amanda and Holly mentioned several cases involving case law about the rights of government employees and the rights of the government as an employer:
Pickering v. Board of Education (1968)
Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006)

They also mentioned cases about religion and public schools and speech that are relevant to this case:
Good News Club v. Milford Central School (2001)
Santa Fe v. Doe (2000) (another case involving prayer at public school football games)
Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)

You can read BJC’s guidance on religion in the public schools – including consensus guidelines put together by diverse groups in decades past – by visiting BJConline.org/religion-public-schools-resources/.


Segment 3: Religion and sports in our lives today  (starting at 33:56)

Amanda and Holly discussed this article by Kelsey Dallas, published by Deseret News: Trying to raise successful kids? Experts say you shouldn’t forget about faith

Respecting Religion is made possible by BJC’s generous donors. You can support these conversations with a gift to BJC