Scott Stands with Coach Kennedy in Fight for Religious Freedom

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) this week joined Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.), Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), and 53 bicameral members of Congress in filing a brief at the Supreme Court in support of Coach Joe Kennedy in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. In October 2021, Scott, Lankford, and Hartzler sent an amicus brief to ask the Supreme Court to grant a review and subsequently reverse the Ninth Circuit’s decision that allowed Coach Kennedy to be fired for silently kneeling and praying after school football games. On January 14, the Supreme Court agreed to take up the case. 

“At our nation’s founding, Americans fought and died for their liberties, including freedom of religion,” said Sen. Scott. “It’s appalling to see that we’ve strayed so far that kneeling to pray silently, as Coach Kennedy did, could cost someone their livelihood. For the sake of all Americans who simply want to practice their faith free from discrimination, I urge the Supreme Court not to let this injustice stand.”

“If Coach Kennedy took a knee during the National Anthem his school would have praised him, but instead he took a knee after a football game to pray so the school fired him. Schools cannot pick and choose which type of free speech or faith expression they like or do not like. We live in a nation that honors personal freedom. Coach Kennedy did not use his position to demand others follow his faith. He simply lived by the principles of his sincere faith,” said Sen. Lankford. “The only thing Coach Kennedy is guilty of is exercising his constitutional rights to freely practice his faith. In America, we can have faith and we can live that faith. The government cannot stop Americans from publicly praying, wearing a cross, or having a Bible on their desk, and certainly not kneeling silently to pray after a football game. I look forward to the Supreme Court looking to the Constitution and upholding Coach Kennedy’s right to live out his faith and end this long, long journey of having to defend that right.

“America’s God-given rights of freedom of religion and speech are central to our nation’s founding and have guided the United States for centuries. Today, these principles are being challenged and stand at risk of being diminished. Bremerton (WA) School District Coach Joe Kennedy exercised his right to practice his faith yet ended up losing his career and livelihood as a result. I urge the Supreme Court to right this wrong for the sake of America’s precious freedoms.”

Kennedy was head coach for the Bremerton High School junior varsity football team and an assistant coach for the varsity team. After each game, he waited until the players cleared the field, then took a knee and silently prayed. Bremerton High School sent Kennedy a letter demanding he stop praying after games. Coach Kennedy’s contract with Bremerton School District was not renewed, resulting in his termination. 

Joining Senators Scott and Lankford in the Senate are Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Todd Young (R-Ind.).

The amicus brief can be found here