SCOTUS rules in favor of Coach Kennedy and religious freedom

SCOTUS rules in favor of Coach Kennedy and religious freedom

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court earlier this week affirmed Coach Kennedy’s right to silently pray in public after high school football games in Kennedy v. Bremerton School Board.

For years, Kennedy would pray very briefly by himself following football games. At one point, students became curious about what he was doing. When asked if they could join, he told them it was a free country, and they could do what they wanted. As time went on, more and more students and even coaches from other teams joined in.

After nearly half the team began to participate in these short prayers, the school told him he could no longer pray publicly. Kennedy initially obeyed the order, but later believed it violated his freedoms of speech and religion. He felt responsible to thank God for the games in that way. So, he continued to pray; and as a result, lost his job. 

WFA signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in order to support Coach Kennedy and urge the court to protect religious freedom. The brief argued that the First Amendment was expressly written to protect our right to exercise our religion in just such situations as Coach Kennedy did. 

Thankfully, the high court upheld Coach K’s right to freely live out his faith in public.  

“The Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect an individual engaging in a personal religious observance from government reprisal,” wrote Justice Neil Gorsuch in the 6-3 majority opinion, adding that the Constitution “neither mandates nor permits the government to suppress such religious expression.” 

The court rejected the school district’s argument that the coach’s prayers were “coercive” of the players. The decision also corrects the widespread misconception that religious speech and actions must be suppressed to avoid the First Amendment’s ban on the “establishment of religion.”

“Both the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect expressions like Mr. Kennedy’s,” Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion. “Nor does a proper understanding of the Amendment’s Establishment Clause require the government to single out private religious speech for special disfavor. The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.”

As the high court claims, our constitution does not require us to abandon our religious traditions and the Establishment Clause does not require schools to fire a coach like Joseph Kennedy.

“Today, the Supreme Court reaffirmed a long-standing principle, correctly ruling that teachers and other school employees do not surrender their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gate,” Sarah Parshall Perry, a senior legal fellow for The Heritage Foundation, said in a statement. 

This is a monumental victory for religious freedom throughout the United States. It serves to protect teachers who bow their heads to give thanks during lunch in the cafeteria, or school employees who wear a cross or religious symbol, as the opinion specifically mentions. 

It will not only help preserve a free and diverse society, but also uphold human dignity, which is inseparable from the freedom to express one’s deeply held beliefs. 

Wisconsin School Counselor Under Investigation for Speaking out Against Transgenderism

Wisconsin School Counselor Under Investigation for Speaking out Against Transgenderism

Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) counselor Marissa Darlingh spoke at a feminist rally at the Wisconsin State Capitol in April. During her speech, Darlingh claimed that she “oppose[s] gender ideology” in schools and that children should not be “exposed to the harms of gender identity ideology” or given “unfettered access to hormones—wrong-sex hormones—and surgery.”

She went on to argue that she “exist[s] in this world to serve children” and “to protect children,” and therefore opposes the social or medical transition of children. At one point, she said “[expletive] transgenderism.”

On April 29, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) informed Darlingh that she was under investigation to determine whether she could keep her educator license because she engaged in “immoral conduct” at the rally. A letter sent to Darlingh cites her use of profanity as well as her statements “oppos[ing] gender identity ideology from entering [her] school building” and her claim that she “do[es] not believe children should have access to hormones or surgery” as examples of her “immoral conduct.”

DPI is violating the First Amendment. Darligh has the right to speak out against gender ideology without fear of losing her job. Thankfully, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty is standing up for her.  

WILL sent a letter to DPI reminding the agency of Darlingh’s First Amendment rights. The counselor’s speech was on a Saturday, outside of school, and she spoke out as a private citizen. Further, state law clearly defines “immoral conduct” as conduct, not speech.

WILL has threatened to file a First Amendment lawsuit in federal court if the DPI attempts to revoke Darlingh’s license.

We need more school teachers and staff to speak out against gender ideology as it is being injected into lessons and feeding children with harmful lies. However, educators can only protect children if their First Amendment rights are respected.

This case sets an important precedent. State agencies have no right to control the speech of anyone, especially speech at a public rally on an employee’s own time. If the agency does revoke Darlingh’s license, it will be sending a dangerous message to the rest of Wisconsin school employees—that their public expressions must align with the agency’s ideology, or there will be consequences.

Further, this case should concern every American, as an attack on free speech anywhere is an attack on free speech everywhere. We are seeing our right to free speech diminish as more and more government agencies and companies crack down on speech they disapprove of.

To restrict the freedom of God’s creation is to violate God’s design. Please pray that WILL’s efforts to protect free speech are successful and that God will raise up godly school personnel who will not be afraid to speak up and truly act in the best interest of the children in their care.

WFA also wants to remind everyone that education freedom is alive in Wisconsin through the multiple educational options we have.