Another MAJOR Supreme Court Victory
There has been another major victory out of the U.S. Supreme Court. Just days after standing up for life with Friday’s decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, today the Court has taken a stand for religious liberty.
As we’ve told you before, a high school football coach was fired because after every home game, he would quietly pray on the field. We filed an amicus brief in the case defending the coach's right to pray.
Today, in a 6-to-3 ruling, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals verdict and stated that the school had punished the coach for an act that was "doubly protected by the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment."
The Supreme Court handed a big win to a former Washington high school football coach who lost his job over reciting a prayer on the 50-yard line after games.
At issue was whether a public school employee praying alone but in view of students was engaging in unprotected "government speech," and if it is not government speech, does it still pose a problem under the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.
This case very much stays in line with how this Supreme Court has been ruling when it comes to religious liberty, particularly in the public square, and especially when it involves young people or minors. Now the Court has said that this football coach has a constitutional right to pray even when standing on school property. He isn’t forcing anyone to join him, or to believe any particular faith.
My dad, ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, offered his insight into the case and this decision:
The biggest aspect of this case was whether the Court was going to leave in place what we call in the legal world the “Lemon test.” This was a very complex, three-part legal test to determine if an activity violated the Establishment Clause – separation of church and state as the Left likes to call it. What’s interesting about this case is they not only said that the coach had the right to engage in that prayer, it was private speech not government speech, but they also said that the fact that there were students around the area did not make it immune to First Amendment protection.
But the court also did away with the Lemon test. What they said was that the application of a Lemon test in this context - and they talk about a history of cases – has been misplaced. And then they said in place of Lemon, and the Endorsement Test, those were the progeny of Lemon if you will, the Court has instructed that the Establishment Clause must be interpreted by reference to historical practice and understanding. And that really focuses in on the lack of coercion. You will have an Establishment Clause violation if the government said, for instance, for you to be a police officer you have to believe in this religion or that religion. Or if you want to get your diploma you have to go to this baccalaureate service at a high school. Or if you want to play in a football game, you have to participate in a prayer by the coach. That would be a violation.
But individual student speech is fully protected . . . it’s a good decision. Finally gets rid of Lemon. Even the dissent says Lemon is gone. That’s a big win. It’s important. I think it’s important to emphasize these cases are going to be very fact-specific.
This is a big win for religious liberty. It’s gratifying to see a return to the importance of free exercise of faith meaning something again.
Today’s full Sekulow broadcast includes more in-depth analysis of this latest Supreme Court win, as well as the impact it could have for other religious liberty cases moving forward.
Watch the full broadcast below: