USA: Supreme Court upholds prayers of American football coach in public school

The Supreme Court of the United States further extended the place of religion in public schools on Monday, invalidating the dismissal of an American football coach who prayed on the field.

Three days after having buried the right to abortion, its six conservative judges, against the advice of their three progressive colleagues, agreed with Joseph kennedy, who had supervised the teams at Bremerton High School, near Seattle (northwest), for seven years before losing his job.

"A government entity wanted to punish an individual for a brief, quiet, and personal religious practice," "the Constitution neither mandates nor condones this kind of discrimination," Judge Neil Gorsuch wrote on their behalf.

After each game, the coach had taken to kneeling in prayer in the middle of the field, sometimes joined by his players. He sometimes led locker room prayers before or after games.

In 2015, school authorities asked him to abstain, citing a section of the Constitution's First Amendment that prohibits the state, and its employees, from encouraging the "establishment" of a religion. , that is to say, to finance it or to promote its practice.

As he refused, they had not renewed his contract. He then took legal action, relying on another provision of the First Amendment which guarantees freedom of religion and expression.

The conservative majority of the Supreme Court (six judges out of nine) now regularly tips the balance in favor of religious circles.

In May, she estimated that Boston City Hall was to let a Christian group display its flag on City Hall. Last week she ruled that the state of Maine could not exclude denominational schools of a public aid system.

“The Constitution and our best traditions encourage mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and nullification, for religious and non-religious views,” she now writes in the Joseph Kennedy filing.

In a new text, the three progressive magistrates of the Court reproach their colleagues for having "distorted the facts" of the file. According to them, the coach's prayers were not "personal and discreet", but "demonstrative" since he "regularly invited others to join him".

Rare in a legal argument, they attach a photo of the coach surrounded by young players, on their knees praying.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor writes on behalf of all three that "this decision does a disservice to the schools and the young citizens they serve, as well as to our Nation's long-term commitment to separate the Church and the state”.

The Editorial Board (with AFP)

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