The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Joseph Kennedy, a Seattle-area football coach.
Beginning in 2008, Kennedy began kneeling on the football field after games and partaking in a brief prayer. Over time, players from his own team and the opposing team began to join him. Eventually, the vast majority of players would participate in the post-game prayer.
This continued without any formal complain until 2015 when the school told Kennedy to stop, claiming the act violated school policy that prohibited staff from encouraging students to engage in devotional activities.
According to the New York Times:
The vote was 6 to 3, with the court’s three liberal members in dissent.
The case pitted 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 the ability of public employers to regulate speech in the workplace. The decision was in tension with decades of Supreme Court precedents that forbade pressuring students to participate in religious activities.
Over the last 60 years, the Supreme Court has rejected prayer in public schools, at least when it was officially required or part of a formal ceremony like a high school graduation. As recently as 2000, the court ruled that organized prayers led by students at high school football games violated the First Amendment’s prohibition of government establishment of religion.
“The delivery of a pregame prayer has the improper effect of coercing those present to participate in an act of religious worship,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority.
Mr. Kennedy’s lawyers said those school prayer precedents were not relevant because they involved government speech. The core question in Mr. Kennedy’s case, they said, was whether government employees give up their own rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion at the workplace.