A lawyer for a Christian football coach fired for praying on the 50-yard line said Sports Illustrated’s claim that a legal win for the coach would cause “an erosion of a bedrock of American democracy” is “ridiculous.”
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First Liberty Institute senior counsel Jeremy Dys said Joe Kennedy, former head coach for the Bremerton High School football team in Washington state, simply sought to utter personal prayers — and that these invocations should be anything but controversial.
“Of course, that’s ridiculous,” Dys told CBN’s Faithwire of Sports Illustrated’s warning about democracy in peril. “Coach Kennedy simply wants to pray by himself for 15-30 seconds after the game at the 50-yard line. I would think most of Sports Illustrated’s readers would find that completely unsurprising.”
As Faithwire previously reported, Kennedy was fired in 2015 for praying on the 50-yard line and allowing students and community members to join him. Critics have widely panned the firing over the reality that players and locals voluntarily chose to join Kennedy after the conclusion of the games.
Others have warned that Kennedy’s actions violated the separation of church and state and were appropriately disallowed. The U.S. Supreme Court will soon make a definitive decision on the matter.
The Sports Illustrated article on Kennedy’s Supreme Court case made a variety of proclamations and claims, though one line, in particular, seemed to cast doubt on the coach’s religious fervor.
“Regardless, the coach makes for an unlikely figurehead in these legal theatrics. He was aimless for most of his 53 years,” the article reads. “For decades, he wasn’t religious at all, and he isn’t overtly so now.”
When asked about this claim that Kennedy isn’t “overtly” religious today, Dys said theological tests don’t apply to First Amendment freedoms.
“Coach lives half of his life thanking God for being awesome and the other half asking for forgiveness,” he said. “Thankfully, as a nation, we have not required citizens to pass a theological test to receive the protections of the First Amendment, regardless of how spiritually mature they may be.”
As for the biggest misconception about Kennedy’s case, Dys said it centers on the idea the coach somehow coerced students to pray alongside him.
“Despite the school district admitting that they found ‘no evidence that students have been directly coerced to pray with Kennedy,’ many still incorrectly claim Coach Kennedy’s private prayer is coercive,” he said. “But, if teachers and coaches may be fired for engaging in a private act of worship, then the promise of the First Amendment is all but lost.”
Dys added, “No one should be forced to choose between their faith and the job that they love.”
The attorney isn’t alone in his critique of the framing offered by Sports Illustrated. Faithwire noted how others dismissed and were perplexed by the claim Kennedy’s win would somehow erode the constitution. Read more about that here.
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