BREMERTON, WA – Coach Joe Kennedy, the high school football coach fired in 2015 after refusing to stop praying on the field, is planning to take his court case to the Supreme Court after losing an appeal.
We are appealing to the Supreme Court!
The fight has been long, but we are hopeful the Supreme Court will right the wrongs. How long have you been following Coach Joe Kennedy's story?https://t.co/7FEd9x11OQ
— First Liberty Institute (@1stLiberty) July 21, 2021
Kennedy, a Marine veteran, was hired to join the Bremerton High School football coaching staff in 2008 and had a consistent and low-key habit of “taking a knee” and saying a short, silent prayer as players left the field.
A visitor from another school observed the ritual and complained to the school district.
In October 2015, the school board instructed the coach to stop the ritual. He was told in writing that he could not bow his head, clasp his hands, or anything that appears to be prayer. He was fired for not complying.
During an interview Friday on the Todd Starnes Show, Coach Kennedy explained the position the school put him in:
“Even if I happened to have just been down and tie my shoe, somebody would say, ‘Oh, look there, he’s kneeling again.’ And so, yeah, you can’t even close your eyes for a second. You can’t throw your hands up in the air during a play.
“It’s just so ridiculous to me how much… of free liberty is just been gone and taken away from us.”
First Liberty’s case representing Coach Joe Kennedy heads to the Supreme Court – Football coach fired for praying on field to take appeal to Supreme Court: 'Stand up for your faith' | Fox News @1st Liberty https://t.co/9uKLsCPILs
— Jeff Mateer (@JeffMateer) July 21, 2021
Texas-based First Liberty Institute, a legal defense organization that specializes in religious advocacy, took up his cause.
They filed suit against the district claiming discrimination against him on the basis of his religion and violated both his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In March 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Leighton granted Bremerton School District’s motion for summary judgment.
Leighton ruled that the case involved a tension inherent to the First Amendment. The employee had a right to exercise his religious expression, but the school district had the right to restrict that expression if it violated the separation of church and state.
“Although the court is sympathetic to Kennedy’s desire to follow his beliefs, the former right must give way to the latter in this case.”
— Linda Marie Lovison (@lilo623) July 21, 2021
First Liberty Institute appealed the decision. the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to re-hear the case on Monday. Kennedy now hopes the Supreme Court will hear the case.
First Liberty Institute lawyer Jeff Mateer described two separate issues in the case:
“You’ve got a school district being hostile who, by the way, now is represented by the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. If that doesn’t say something in itself, Todd, that these hardcore activists who don’t believe there should be any religion in public life are now representing the school district.
“One of the judges goes at length to explain that he believed the way Coach Joe was praying was inappropriate…it’s not right for judges to tell us what is the proper way to pray or not pray. That’s up to us. That’s up to Coach Joe. And it’s not for judges to tell us what’s appropriate or not appropriate.”
Former Bremerton High School football coach Joe Kennedy says he will file another appeal following his latest defeat in court over praying on the sidelines. https://t.co/XSUwILRMKR
— KIRO Radio 97.3 FM🎙 (@KIRORadio) July 20, 2021
Kennedy told Starnes that he served the country for 20 years defending the constitution, and he was confused by the school telling him he could not practice his constitutional right to express his religion.
Kennedy took issue with NFL players and Olympians who are permitted to “take a knee,” but a high school football coach cannot:
“So, the same rights that give them the liberty to take a knee in protest for injustices even at the Olympics now. I mean, they could do that, but I can’t.
“I’m a high school football coach. I can’t even take a knee for 10 seconds and say thanks to the God who created me, there’s something seriously wrong with the country right now.”
— First Liberty Institute (@1stLiberty) May 15, 2021
Mateer vowed that the case will go before the Supreme Court, calling Kennedy “persistent and steadfast”:
“We’re headed back to the U.S. Supreme Court. We got a decision yesterday from the entire 9th Circuit. They decided not to review a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit who had ruled against Coach Joe. And so, this case is headed once again back to the U.S. Supreme Court. And you (Starnes) mentioned the length.
“You know, this case started way back in 2015. And if there’s one thing that Joe Kennedy is, Coach Joe is persistent and steadfast. And so, we’re going to continue this case and we’ll continue it all the way back to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
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Minister files lawsuit against Nancy Pelosi, Kamala Harris and Capitol Police for blocking Good Friday prayer vigil
April 1, 2021
WASHINGTON, DC – According to reports, a Presbyterian minister has filed a lawsuit against Nancy Pelosi, Vice President Kamala Harris, and officials within the US Capitol Police due to the erected fencing outside of the Capitol building preventing this minister from conducting a Good Friday prayer vigil, which he’s held before in the same location previously.
Minister Sues Pelosi, Harris for Blocking Prayer Vigil with Fencing https://t.co/jwEjCmk8rE
— James Hirsen (@thejimjams) April 1, 2021
Reverend Patrick Mahoney filed his complaint in federal court on March 30th, alleging that the fencing around the Capitol building – as well as being denied the request via a submitted permit to hold the prayer vigil on the sidewalk near the Lower Western Terrace – is infringing upon his First and Fifth Amendment rights.
According to the complaint filed, Reverend Mahoney had held a Good Friday prayer service in the exact same location back in 2020:
“Plaintiff’s application for a permit to hold a Good Friday prayer vigil is in the exact same location where he held his Good Friday prayer vigil in 2020. In 2020, Plaintiff worked with Capitol Police to ensure that he was able to safely hold a prayer vigil on Capitol grounds even though COVID-19 was constraining the nation.”
Further along within the complaint, Reverend Mahoney showcases that as a result of the fencing being erected around the Capitol building due to what transpired on January 6th, that the “defendants have effectively created a no speech zone around the nation’s Capital.”
Nancy Pelosi and Capitol leadership cannot convert a traditional public forum—the Capitol grounds—into a no-speech zone where even prayers on #GoodFriday are prohibited.
The fence surrounding Fort Pelosi must go…or at least be moved to allow for peaceful expression. https://t.co/D8LWwWUZkk
— Mark Trammell (@mark_trammell) March 30, 2021
It’s been nearly three months since the riot at the Capitol building, and Reverend Mahoney’s lawsuit specifically points out that the defendants in the suit are effectively trampling upon First Amendment rights to a perceived threat that can no longer be specified:
“Defendants prevent any First Amendment activities on/in these areas, even though no specific threat to the Capitol has been identified in justification.”
“Defendants further refuse to inform the Plaintiff of when public sidewalks surrounding these halls of power may once again be utilized for public speech.”
Back when Reverend Mahoney attempted to acquire the permit to hold the Good Friday prayer vigil, an email from Capitol Police to the Reverend showcased that police officials had deemed the area he wanted to occupy as “restricted.”
When speaking to a Capitol Police Lieutenant, Reverend Mahoney alleged that he was informed by the lieutenant that if he wanted to hold any sort of vigil on a sidewalk area within the capital that it would have to be “quite far from where I wanted to be.”
Nancy Pelosi & Kamala Harris banished citizen prayer from the Capitol grounds. @Liberty_Ctr sued today on behalf of Reverend Pat Mahoney to restore his 1st Amemendment rights. If any place in America needs God, it's that building. Sign the petition here! https://t.co/zQQO3OfsDv
— Harmeet K. Dhillon (@pnjaban) March 31, 2021
Harmeet K. Dhillon, CEO of the Center for American Liberty and who is legally representing Reverend Mahoney, stated the following about the lawsuit:
“If there was ever a location in need of divine intervention, of God’s favor and wisdom, it would be the U.S. Capitol where legislators from across the country gather to pass laws that have a profound impact on virtually every aspect of our lives.”
“Denying a minister and faithful parishioners the ability to pray outside the U.S. Capitol is unfathomable and violates First Amendment guarantees for traditional public forums.”
The Center for American Liberty is reportedly seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction from the court that would require the Lower Western Terrace and Lawn be open for forms of public expression.
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