DULUTH, Ga. – Church leaders in Georgia celebrated Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision siding with a high school football coach who kneeled and prayed on the field after games as a great win for all believers.
Justices ruled 6-3 in favor of the Coach Joseph Kennedy of Washington state, saying his prayer was protected by the First Amendment.
“The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority.
“What a glorious day for the United States to accept prayer back in public school settings,” said Georgia Baptist Convention President Kevin Williams, pastor of First Baptist Church of Villa Rica. “The coach took a stand for the Lord knowing the possible consequences. In the end, God has the final word.”
The decision is the latest in a line of Supreme Court rulings strengthening the cause of religious liberty. Earlier this month, the justices held that Maine can’t exclude religious schools from a program that offers tuition and aid.
Paul Clement, the attorney at First Liberty Institute who argued the case on behalf of the coach said in a statement that the decision would allow him "to finally return to the place he belongs – coaching football and quietly praying by himself after the game.”
In a statement, Kennedy thanked God “for answering our prayers and sustaining my family through this long battle.”
“This is just so awesome,” he said. “All I’ve ever wanted was to be back on the field with my guys.”
Kennedy, who coached at Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Washington, initially prayed alone on the 50-yard line at the end of games, a practice he continued even though the school asked him to stop. That’s when he was removed from his coaching position.
“Nothing this coach did had anything to do with establishing a religion as part of government,” said Mike Griffin, public affairs representative for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. “He was merely expressing his First Amendment right. This is an important decision going forward so that Christians and all people of faith will not be discriminated against.”
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