Football and Prayer – Religious Freedom or Coercion

religious freedom

With the focus on Roe vs. Wade, people have mostly ignored another big Supreme Court decision. This decision may affect religious freedom in schools and school activities. In the case of Kennedy vs. Bremerton School District, the supreme court sided with Coach Kennedy.

Coach Joseph Kennedy worked as a football coach for Bremerton High School in Washington State. After games, he would go to the fifty-yard line, or middle of the field, and pray. Often the players, or students of the school, the opposing team, and audience members would join him. When some people complained, the school fired Coach Kennedy. Kennedy sued the school district for wrongly firing him and taking away his religious freedom. As previously mentioned, the Supreme Court agreed with Kennedy. They said that he had the right to pray on the field after games.

Religious Freedom or Coercion

Two arguments have been presented that the court made the wrong decision. First, people have speculated that if any other religion conducted their prayers on a football field after a school game, the court would not have made the same decision. They believe that the court only sided with Kennedy because he is Christian.

Second, Vox argues that this victory came from lies. They say that Kennedy lied in the case, which resulted in the court’s decision. Kennedy said that he would say his prayers silently, but Vox says he led the students in prayer. Also, students on the team would feel coerced to participate because Kennedy was the coach. According to Vox, one mother complained that her son felt pressured to join in the after-game prayers in order to play longer in the games. Vox says this is a violation of the separation of church and state.


What is the truth and how should this situation be handled? Honestly, I think the court made the correct decision. As long as the coach did not force the students to join him, or imply that joining him would result in more playing time, he or she should have the right to offer prayers after his school duties.

If other religions wanted to pray then they should have the right as well. One Twitter user specifically mentioned Muslim prayers and prayer carpets. If Muslims wanted to offer prayers after the game, then they can, though they would have to provide their own prayer carpets.

The Constitution gives the right to have religious freedom. This means that we can conduct ourselves as dictated by our religious beliefs. Though we cannot force others to participate in our religious activities. Still, a coach has the right to pray after a game with students as they choose. It does not matter the religion, religious freedom applies to all.

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