Religion Unplugged

Can a high school coach pray at 50-yard line? 5 key takeaways from high court arguments

By Bobby Ross Jr. | Religion Unplugged

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The case of Joseph Kennedy, a Bremerton, Washington, high school football coach who wants to kneel and pray at the 50-yard line, made it to the U.S. Supreme Court this week.

Arguments took nearly two hours, double the time scheduled.

Here are five key takeaways:

1. The issue: “The case pits the rights of government workers to free speech and the free exercise of their faith against the Constitution’s prohibition of government endorsement of religion and Supreme Court precedents that forbid pressuring students to participate in religious activities,” the New York Times’ Adam Liptak explains.

2. The significance: It’s “one of its most significant cases on prayer in decades … in a clear test for how the court’s new conservative majority may rule on prayer in public schools,” Newsweek’s Julia Duin reports.

Duin adds:

The case focused on whether a high school coach could openly pray after the end of a football game. Arguments included examples from elsewhere in the sports world, with mentions of former Denver Broncos football player Tim Tebow, known for kneeling on the field in prayer, and Egyptian soccer player Mohamed Salah, who kneels in a thanksgiving prayer to Allah after he scores a goal.

Read Plug-in’s past coverage of Tebow’s controversial prayers.

3. The hypotheticals: “The U.S. Supreme Court justices spun more than a dozen hypothetical prayer scenarios during oral arguments,” Christianity Today’s Daniel Silliman notes.

The Associated Press’ Jessica Gresko highlights some of those scenarios:

A coach who crosses himself before a game. A teacher who reads the Bible aloud before the bell rings. A coach who hosts an after-school Christian youth group in his home.

Supreme Court justices discussed all those hypothetical scenarios.

See more on the hypotheticals from the Deseret News’ Kelsey Dallas, whose advance coverage on what’s at stake I recommended last week.

Read the full column.

This column appears in the online magazine Religion Unplugged.

Featured photo via Shutterstock

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