Pence organization supporting coach in school prayer case at Supreme Court

An organization headed by former Vice President Mike Pence that supports religious freedoms is one of several others pressing the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case regarding a former high school football coach who was fired for saying a prayer on the field after games.

The group, Advancing American Freedom, was among roughly 70 organizations that are asking the high court to take up the case in an amicus brief filed on Monday involving Joseph Kennedy, fired in 2015 as the football coach at Bremerton High School in the state of Washington.

“When a public official engages in silent prayer on bended knee following the completion of one of his most important job responsibilities, that prayer is universally understood by all reasonable observers to be an act of personal thanks and devotion. It is absurd to label an act of obvious personal gratitude and humility governmental speech that is prohibited by the Constitution,” says the amicus brief.

“Indeed, it is commonplace in our Republic for public officials to pray aloud in front of public audiences, which has since the time of the Founding been understood to be a permissible and healthy expression of the personal faith of the speaker, rather than an impermissible endorsement of religion by the government,” the brief continued.

Legal analysts believe that the case, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, is very likely to be granted a review because in 2019 when the high court turned it down, four justices signed onto a statement that suggested they had doubts about the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to rule in favor of the school district, Politico reported.

Nevertheless, in spite of concerns, the justices “urged clarification of the record in the case on the specific issue of whether Kennedy was fired due to his brief, post-game prayers or because of a failure to supervise his players during that time,” the outlet reported.

In its latest decision on the case from March, the San Francisco-based appeals court said that the former coach’s prayers were enjoined by several team members and included motivational speeches that eventually led to a complaint by one parent whose son was an atheist concerned that unless he joined the prayers he wouldn’t get as much playing time.

The panel of judges ruled that the school’s termination of Kennedy was justified based on the concerns of the single parent because the prayers allegedly violate the Constitution’s guarantee against established religion.

The brief that includes Pence’s organization repeats language employed in Kennedy’s petition that was filed last month at the Supreme Court which ripped the lower court’s decision as “egregiously wrong.”

“Americans of faith do not turn their devotion off and on like a light switch, and we must reject any attempt by the government to control private religious expression — especially those who call on their faith when answering the call to participate in public service,” said Pence in a statement issued Monday.

“Advancing American Freedom will always stand up to unconstitutional restrictions on personal religious freedom and the free exercise of religion that are the lifeblood of our Republic,” he added.

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