HOUSTON – Jonathan Saenz, the president of Texas Values, is now celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court decision on siding with a Washington state football coach who lost his job for praying after games.
“This court decision in favor of coach Kennedy is a touchdown for prayer and the First Amendment,” said Saenz.
In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court said Coach Joe Kennedy was stripped of his First Amendment right to religious freedom when he was put on leave for praying after football games on the 50-yard line.
The school district feared lawsuits for violating students’ religious freedom rights and told him to no longer lead prayers to players and other students.
But when he persisted, he was put on administrative leave.
“You don’t shed your religious freedom rights because you work for the government,” Saenz said.
On Monday, the high court said since Kennedy initially started praying on his own without forcing players to join him, it didn’t cross the line of separation of church and state.
“At the end of the day, this is a situation that some may see it as the continued erosion of that wall that separates church from state,” said KPRC2 Legal Analyst Brian Wice. “What Justice [Neil] Gorsuch said is, ‘look that wall doesn’t mean that we have to disrespect religion in the context of this case.’”
Texas Values and Attorney General Ken Paxton filed separate amicus briefs supporting Kennedy.
Paxton hailed the decision as a “victory for religious liberty” adding, “the First Amendment absolutely allows public school coaches and their players to pray on field after games.”
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said the ruling should be a celebration for all Americans, “now that the U.S. Supreme Court has issued its decision in Kennedy’s favor, it is abundantly clear that government cannot infringe on personal displays of prayer,” Patrick writes in a statement.