Influential people, including those who are associated with the National Football League (NFL), have expressed their support towards a football coach who was fired simply out of praying.
According to The Christian Post, a number of people have filed "friend-of-the-court" briefs to seek the reversal of a lower court decision that affirmed the firing of Joe Kennedy from Bremerton High School (BHS).
As shared by the First Liberty Institute (FLI), the legal organization that represents Kennedy, active and retired NFL players, such as Kirk Cousins of Minnesota Vikings, Nick Fowles, Darrell Green and Steve Largent, have joined coaches Tommy Bowden and Lou Holtz in urging the Supreme Court (SC) to uphold Kennedy's freedom to express religious belief.
Other individuals who joined the call include 56 United States (US) Representatives, 60 state legislators, six former US attorneys generals (AG) and 27 state AGs. Different organizations have also filed briefs in support of Kennedy.
Kelly Shackelford, FLI's CEO and Chief Counsel, expressed her gratitude on the massive support.
"We are grateful for the outpouring of support from every corner of America for Coach Kennedy to be able to pray, silently by himself on the 50-yard line after games. We are hopeful the Supreme Court will protect the right of every American to engage in private religious expression, including praying in public, without fear of getting fired," Shackelford stated.
In 2008, Kennedy began serving as an assistant coach of BHS' varsity football team. At the end of every game, he would take a knee and pray quietly - fulfilling his commitment to God.
But in 2015, he was suspended from his job, contending that his gesture violates the school board's policy on "Religious-Related Activities and Practices."
In 2016, FLI filed a lawsuit against the Bremerton School District, asking the court to allow Kennedy to continue with his job while the case is being heard. But both the District Court and the 9th Circuit denied the request. In 2018, SC refused to tackle the case and instead, sent it back to the District Court for further litigation. But the court, as well as the 9th Circuit, reaffirmed the decision.
In September 2021, Kennedy's lawyers decided to refile the case at SC. In January 2022, the latter announced that it finally agrees to hear the case.
Reacting to SC's decision, Shackleford said that the case will allow SC to protect the right of the Americans to express their religious belief.
"No teacher or coach should lose their job for simply expressing their faith while in public. By taking this important case, the Supreme Court can protect the right of every American to engage in private religious expression, including praying in public, without fear of punishment," she declared.
Kennedy, on the other hand, is delighted over the possibility of being able to return to his job.
"Six years away from the football field has been far too long. I am extremely grateful that the Supreme Court is going to hear my case and pray that I will soon be able to be back on the field coaching the game and players I love," he said.