U.S. Supreme Court Decides Against Hearing Appeal of High School Football Coach Fired for Praying On the Field After Games

Coach Joe Kennedy, recently placed on administrative leave due to his prayers on the football field after games, listens to the national anthem from the stands at Memorial Stadium in Bremerton on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015.

The United States Supreme Court decided Tuesday not to hear an appeal from a public high school football coach who was fired for kneeling in prayer on the field after games.

Joe Kennedy, who coached at Bremerton High School in Washington state before he was suspended in 2015, had his appeal to the high court denied Tuesday.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito issued a statement concurring with the denial as part of the order, being joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh.

In his statement, Justice Alito explained that the denial came not because of agreement with a lower court ruling but rather a belief that there remained “important unresolved factual questions.”

“… although petitioner’s free speech claim may ultimately implicate important constitutional issues, we cannot reach those issues until the factual question of the likely reason for the school district’s conduct is resolved. For that reason, review of petitioner’s free speech claim is not warranted at this time,” wrote Alito.

Kelly Shackelford, president of First Liberty, the firm representing Kennedy, said in a statement on Tuesday that they did not see the rejection as an end to the case.

“We are eager to return to the district court, answer the questions the justices raised today, and give the court another opportunity to protect the right of every American to engage in private religious expression, including praying in public, without fear of getting fired,” said Shackelford.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which filed an amicus brief on behalf of the school district, expressed support for the Supreme Court’s decision to not hear arguments.

“The coach’s actions were a clear violation of religious freedom, forcing kids to choose between their own beliefs and appeasing the man who decides the lineup for the game,” said Americans United President Rachel Laser in a statement released Tuesday.

“Luckily, the school district recognized and put a stop to this coercive act, sending the clear message that the beliefs of all students must be respected. The Supreme Court’s action today signals that the school district had the right to protect the religious freedom of its students.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Gryboski