Kennedy v. Bremerton School District (U.S.C.A. 9th Circuit, 2017)

9th Circuit Court of Appeals ,

For eight years a public high school football coach led his team in pre- and post-game prayer. After the coach was ordered to stop sponsoring team prayer, he began the practice of kneeling in prayer at the football field's 50-yard line immediately following every game. The coach was discharged from his position when he repeatedly refused to comply with the school district's directive to end this practice. In response, the coach brought a lawsuit claiming the district violated his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion, and discriminated against him on the basis of religion. ADL joined an amicus brief, which argues that the school district's action was appropriate and required to avoid violating the Establishment Clause. Because the coach engaged in the prayer practice during a school-sponsored event at which he was charged with supervision of students, his conduct was not private. Rather, it was official school district activity, which unconstitutionally endorsed and coerced religion. The brief highlights the important role of public school coaches as role models, mentors and parental figures for students. Due to that unique leadership position in public schools, the brief further argues that the religious endorsement and coercion issues in this case are even more pronounced than in instances where other educators in their official capacities engage in religious activities or school officials support student-led prayer.