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Supreme Court rules in favor of educator-led prayers in public schools in case about fired football coach

The Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that a high school football coach who led prayers in the locker room and at the 50-yard line after games was unconstitutionally fired because his religious freedom rights were violated, the Washington Post reports.

In a decision written by conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch whose spot on the court was secured by an unethical Senate maneuver by Republican leader Mitch McConnell, the court ruled that Bremerton High School coach Joseph Kennedy had his First Amendment infringed by the school board’s decision to discipline him.

Kennedy’s actions were more than simply praying in public.  Players and parents complained that Kennedy evangelized and conducted prayer sessions in the locker room that players were forced to attend.  Players and parents also contended that Kennedy punished players who did not participate by limiting their playing time on the field.

The Supreme Court did not address those issues in their decision, instead concentrating on Kennedy’s individual claim that he was punished for exercising his faith.

“The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike,” Gorsuch wrote.

“This decision does a disservice to schools and the young citizens they serve, as well as to our Nation’s long-standing commitment to the separation of church and state,” Sotomayor wrote in the dissenting opinion adding, “This Court consistently has recognized that school officials leading prayer is constitutionally impermissible. Official-led prayer strikes at the core of our constitutional protections for the religious liberty of students and their parents … The Court now charts a different path.”

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