Wicker Joins Fight to Protect Coach Fired for Praying At School

Miss. Senator Petitions U.S. Supreme Court to Protect Religious Liberty

October 20, 2021

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., joined an amicus brief led by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Representative Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., in support of Coach Joe Kennedy in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. The brief asks the Supreme Court to review and reverse a lower court’s decision that allowed the coach to be fired for silently kneeling and praying after school football games he coached.

“Religious freedom is a principle enshrined in our country’s Bill of Rights,” Wicker said. “It is regrettable to see religious freedom ignored and a devout coach fired for practicing his sincerely-held beliefs. The Supreme Court should immediately reverse this decision and stand in defense of one of America’s most sacred traditions.”

Kennedy was head coach for the Bremerton High School junior varsity football team in Washington state. After each game he coached, Kennedy would wait until his players cleared the field, then he would kneel and silently pray. Bremerton High School sent Kennedy a letter demanding he stop praying after games. Kennedy’s contract with the school was subsequently not renewed, resulting in his termination.

The former coach filed a lawsuit against the school district, which a federal district court initially dismissed. On appeal, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit argued Kennedy’s prayers were not protected by the Constitution because he was praying as a public employee. In 2019, Coach Kennedy asked the Supreme Court to review the case but the Court denied review of the case, with a concurring statement by four Justices requesting more information. After the decision, the case went back to the lower courts. In March 2021, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit upheld the District Court’s decision that Kennedy’s silent, public prayers after football games violated the Establishment Clause, and the circuit court denied an appeal for review.

Read the full amicus brief here.