24 GOP AGs ask Supreme Court to uphold First Amendment rights of high school coach fired for praying on field

24 GOP AGs ask Supreme Court to uphold First Amendment rights of high school coach fired for praying on field

October 20, 2021

Football coach fired for praying on field to take appeal to Supreme Court

Joe Kennedy, a former high school football coach, and his attorney Hiram Sasser, are challenging a ban on post-game prayers and vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court after Kennedy lost his latest court appeal.

FIRST ON FOX: Two dozen Republican attorneys general are urging the Supreme Court to “uphold the constitutional rights” of a former high school football coach who was fired for praying on the field.

The group, led by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor, filed an amicus brief on Tuesday asking the high court to review a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling earlier this year that determined Bremerton School District in Washington state lawfully fired Joe Kennedy when he defied its order not to pray. 

“Americans do not abandon their religious liberties at the door of their workplace,” Brnovich said in a statement. “Especially at this moment in our country’s history, it is imperative that heavy-handed government be restrained from trampling on our rights to personal expression as recognized and protected by the First Amendment.”

The amicus brief argues that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling goes against well-established precedent and threatens First Amendment rights, and that its justification of the district’s “discriminatory actions” creates problems for public employers and employees.

Kennedy was initially suspended and then fired in 2015 after he refused a school district order to end his postgame prayer sessions, which had begun with him silently praying along on the field before players joined him.

The retired Marine Corps gunnery sergeant, who is being represented by First Liberty Institute, joined Fox News’ “America Reports” earlier this year.

“The First Amendment really means a lot to me,” Kennedy said on Feb. 1, “and 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 Supreme Court declined in 2019 to hear Kennedy’s appeal after the Ninth Circuit rejected his case. As part of the Supreme Court’s initial decision, four conservative justices  – Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch – indicated Kennedy’s case could succeed after further litigation.

In order to hear a case, the Supreme Court typically just needs four justices to grant certiorari. Since the 2019 decision, the court has added another conservative justice in Amy Coney Barrett. 

Fox News’ Sam Dorman and Dom Calicchio contributed to this report.

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