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Joe Kennedy, a retired Marine Corps gunnery sergeant, was initially suspended and then fired in 2015 after he refused a Washington state school district order to end his postgame prayer sessions, which had begun with him silently praying on the field before players later joined him.
Oral arguments for the Kennedy case will likely be held this spring with a ruling by late June 2022, Fox News confirmed. GOP senators and former Vice President Mike Pence are among those filing legal briefs in support of Kennedy.
The Supreme Court declined in 2019 to hear Kennedy’s appeal after his case was rejected by the Ninth Circuit. As part of the Supreme Court’s initial decision, four conservative justices – Thomas, Alito, Kavanaugh, and Gorsuch – indicated Kennedy’s case could succeed after further litigation.
“The First Amendment really means a lot to me,” Kennedy said last year during an appearance on Fox News. “It is really terrible today in America that somebody can be fired just for expressing their faith. So I am just fighting so that no one else ever has to go through this and doesn’t have to choose between their job and their faith.”
The Bremerton School District, through its attorneys at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, issued a statement on the court’s decision to review the case.
“No child attending public school should have to pray to play school sports,” said Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser. “No student should ever be made to feel excluded – whether it’s in the classroom or on the football field – because they don’t share the religious beliefs of their coaches, teachers or fellow students.”
“The Bremerton School District followed the law and protected students’ religious freedom when it stopped its football coach from holding coercive prayers with players on the 50-yard line after high school football games,” Laser added. “Public schoolchildren and their families – like all of us – have a constitutional right to believe as they choose and be treated equally by their public schools, regardless of their beliefs. The Bremerton School District fulfilled its legal duty to respect their fundamental rights.”
The case is Kennedy v. Bremerton School District (21-418).
Fox News’ Shannon Bream, Bill Mears, Sam Dorman, and Dom Calicchio contributed to this article.