The case, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, seems highly likely to be granted review because when the Supreme Court turned the case down in 2019 four justices signed a statement that appeared to raise doubts about the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in favor of the school district. Despite those concerns, at that time, 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 San Francisco-based appeals court’s latest opinion, issued in March, noted that Kennedy’s prayer eventually was joined by numerous members of the team, included motivational speeches, and led to at least one complaint from a parent who’s son was an atheist and came to believe he would not get as much playing time if he didn’t join in the post-game prayer. The 9th Circuit panel said the school’s actions in terminating Kennedy were justified based on concerns that his conduct violated the Constitution’s guarantee against establishment of religion.
The brief from Pence’s group echoes language in Kennedy’s petition filed with the Supreme Court last month blasting the appeals 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,” Pence said in a statement 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.”
Other signatories to the amicus brief include the Young America’s Foundation, which is headed by former Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.), and a group that often backs social and religious conservatives at the high court, the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Pence’s group has previously filed briefs with the high court in two other cases it is set to hear argument on in December: Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban and a case from Maine about use of state tuition subsidies at sectarian schools.
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