By Tom Strode
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court delivered what most religious liberty advocates declared an important victory June 27 in ruling the post-game, midfield prayer of a high school football coach did not violate the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion.
In a 6-3 opinion, the justices decided the Bremerton (Wash.) School District actually violated the First Amendment rights of Joseph Kennedy by removing him as a coach because of its concerns his practice infringed on the Establishment Clause. In doing so, the majority acknowledged it no longer abides by a more than 50-year-old standard in church-state cases known as the Lemon test.
“[A] government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance doubly protected by the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment,” Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the court’s opinion. “And the only meaningful justification the government offered for its reprisal rested on a mistaken view that it had a duty to ferret out and suppress religious observances even as it allows comparable secular speech. [Read more…]