Kennedy v. Bremerton School District
Description: The Bremerton School District in Washington suspended a high school football coach for engaging in 30 seconds of personal prayer at the end of a game.
US Supreme Court rules high school coach free to pray at football games
The following quote may be attributed to Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Monday in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, a case in which high school football coach Joe Kennedy was suspended for engaging in 30 seconds of personal prayer at the end of a game:
“As the Supreme Court has affirmed, Coach Kennedy’s personal prayer of gratitude at the end of a football game is protected under the First Amendment both as religious exercise and as private speech, free from government censorship. American citizens don’t give up the right to prayerfully practice their faith during working hours when they accept a job with a public employer. We are pleased the Supreme Court reversed the 9th Circuit’s ruling that wrongly reasoned that Coach Kennedy’s personal, on-field prayers were not his own, but the government’s, and affirmed his constitutional right to exercise his faith, as is true for every American.”
“Both the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect expressions like Mr. Kennedy’s,” wrote the Supreme Court in its 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.”
In March, ADF attorneys and lead counsel representing former and current National Football League players filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court in support of Kennedy and a ruling upholding freedom of speech and religion.
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.
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John Bursch is senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy with Alliance Defending Freedom. Bursch has argued 12 U.S. Supreme Court cases and more than 30 state supreme court cases since 2011, and a recent study concluded that among all frequent Supreme Court advocates who did not work for the federal government, he had the 3rd highest success rate for persuading justices to adopt his legal position. Bursch served as solicitor general for the state of Michigan from 2011-2013. He has argued multiple Michigan Supreme Court cases in eight of the last ten terms and has successfully litigated hundreds of matters nationwide, including six with at least $1 billion at stake. As part of his private firm, Bursch Law PLLC, he has represented Fortune 500 companies, foreign and domestic governments, top public officials, and industry associations in high-profile cases, primarily on appeal. He received his J.D. magna cum laude in 1997 from the University of Minnesota Law School and is admitted to practice in numerous federal district and appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.