Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association were among 18 religious and non-profit organizations signing onto an amicus brief to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Kennedy vs. Bremerton School District, in support of the school district’s efforts to protect students from religious coercion.
In this widely publicized case, a football coach at a public school in a Seattle suburb refused to comply with the school district’s directive that he stop leading group prayers with the student athletes on the 50-yard-line immediately after games. The Supreme Court has long held that that even “student-led, student-initiated” prayer delivered at high-school football games violates students’ constitutionally protected religious freedom. After a series of local and appeals court rulings against him, the coach is again appealing to the Ninth Circuit, claiming a free-exercise right to remain employed by the school district while leading students in public prayer. This brief argues once again that the Establishment Clause forbids the coach’s on-field prayer practice, which pressured the students on the team to participate; and therefore also that the coach doesn’t have rights under the Free Exercise Clause or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (which bars employment discrimination on the basis of, among other things, religion) to perform his official coaching duties in ways that violate the Establishment Clause.