Monday, March 9, 2020

"Coach Prayer" Loses Again - Your Tax Dollars at Work

The coach lost but, if this case makes its way to the Supreme Court a second time, there is a risk of a decision negatively impacting gender-diverse students.
Former Coach Joseph A. Kennedy
Former high school football Coach Joseph A. Kennedy became a Christian celebrity when he defied school policy and insisted on praying on the 50 yard line after games when he was supposed to be in the locker room.
via Fox News
Joseph A. Kennedy was an assistant high school football coach. Kennedy became a celebrity in conservative Christian circles because he insisted on praying on the 50 yard line after games.

The Bremerton School District (in suburban Seattle) instructed Kennedy to cease the activity. Kennedy was displeased.

Parents had complained that playing time for their children might be based, in part, on prayer participation. The school district also had a concern related to a violation of the Establishment Clause. Kennedy's celebrity increased in evangelical Christian circles.

Kennedy had numerous media appearances in which he said that he would ignore the directive and pray at the school's homecoming game. He did.

A number of adults joined him on the field which they were not permitted to be on. At the time, Kennedy was being paid to be in the locker room supervising his teenage players. Kennedy was canned.

I will get to the legal issues in a moment but I have a basic question: Why was it essential for this schmuck to pray in public in violation of his employer's directive not to do so?

My answer is one word: Vanity. Kennedy risked his job to gain attention. He also got some terrible legal advice from Kelly Shackleford's First Liberty Institute.

Kennedy was also represented by Anthony J. Ferate, an extremely controversial Oklahoma attorney (and GOP operatie) who once falsified the tax records of nonprofit organizations to funnel tax-deducted contributions to political campaigns. How he retained his license is anyone's guess.

No one who gets fired is ever at fault in America.
  1. In August of 2016, Kennedy sued in federal district court. He lost.
  2. The Ninth Circuit affirmed on the basis that Kennedy’s prayers were delivered in his capacity as a public employee.
  3. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
  4. Justices Alito, Gorsuch, Thomas and Kavanaugh authored a concurring opinion but were skeptical of some of the process at the lower courts. They noted that Kennedy “still has live claims under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
  5. So it was back to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. Last Thursday Kennedy lost again.
What will he do now? Kennedy has some high-powered lawyers from Kirkland and Ellis. Apparently they believe that there is an important First Amendment issue in this case. Is this going to take the route back to the Ninth Circuit and then the Supreme Court.

As noted in the district court opinion, the speech of government employees in performance of their duties is unprotected citing Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006). Would the conservative justices like to revisit that case to make a religious exemption?

Possibly which means that this case could waste more time and more tax dollars. All because Joseph A. Kennedy feels that it is imperative to pray in public after football games.

Should that happen, my concern is the possible impact on cases where public school teachers have refused to use the preferred pronouns of gender diverse students.

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