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In Religious Liberty Ruling, Supreme Court Exposes Liberal Hostility Toward Religion

AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris

Religion

On Monday, in the latest of a string of landmark decisions, the Supreme Court ruled in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District that a high school football coach has a Constitutional right to pray on the field following his team’s games. While the ruling is undoubtedly a major victory for religious liberty, the reaction from the media and elected Democrats to the decision highlights the ever-growing hostility of the left toward religion, and underscores why the Founders were so careful to enshrine protections on the free exercise of religion in the Constitution.

In a 6-3 vote, with the Court’s three liberal members in dissent, a Gorsuch-led majority ruled that the prayers that Coach Joseph Kennedy of Bremerton High School in Washington State led after the team’s football games were protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, and that the school district had erred in firing the coach as a result of the act. As held by the majority opinion, “Both the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect expressions like Mr. Kennedy’s… The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.” The Court also strongly rejected the school district’s argument that merely holding an optional post-game prayer amounts to coercing students to participate in a religious act, asserting that “learning how to tolerate speech or prayer of all kinds is ‘part of learning how to live in a pluralistic society,’ a trait of character essential to ‘a tolerant citizenry.’”

Conservatives justifiably celebrated Monday’s result as a milestone win for religious liberty, particularly after the Court has in recent decades acted to restrict and discourage public religious displays by any government entity through decisions like Lee v. Weisman (1992) and Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971). But thanks to three new conservative Justices appointed by former President Trump, the Court has now begun to move back toward an originalist interpretation of the Constitution’s protections for religious expression (the Kennedy verdict, notably, effectively overruled Lemon, which had long been selectively invoked by activist judges to strike down disfavored laws dealing with religion in schools).

In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by her liberal colleagues Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer, argued that requiring public schools to allow employees to exhibit public displays of their religious faith “sets us further down a perilous path in forcing states to entangle themselves with religion, with all of our rights hanging in the balance.” Sotomayor characterized Coach Kennedy’s prayers as a “severe disruption to school events,” and maintained that the key question at stake in the case was “whether a school district is required to allow one of its employees to incorporate a public, communicative display of the employee’s personal religious beliefs into a school event.” For the three dissenting justices (and to the left generally) the answer to this question is no, as she argued that the government must remain neutral about religion.

The media predictably latched on to the dissent’s line of reasoning, insisting that the ruling amounted to a complete overhaul of the First Amendment. Following the release of the decision, Vox ran a headline that said, “The Supreme Court’s ‘praying coach’ decision rests on a bed of lies,” while one from Reuters read, “U.S. Supreme Court takes aim at separation of church and state.” The Washington Post similarly decried the Court for “eroding the wall between church and state” and Bloomberg declared “Supreme Court Un-Separates Church and State,” while Slate Magazine accused the Court of “let[ing] public schools coerce students into practicing Christianity” and “repealing separation of church and state.”

Those accusations reflect a now common refrain among the left that any perceived mixing of religion and government-funded activity (like a public school football game) is a violation of the “separation of church and state” and thus a violation of the First Amendment. However, these claims both ignore the plain text of the First Amendment itself and completely distort what the Founders had in mind when they wrote it.

As conservative legal scholars have repeatedly pointed out, the phrase “separation of church and state” is found nowhere in the Constitution, and is instead drawn from a line in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802, in which he wrote: “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”

But Jefferson was not concerned about preventing religion from influencing the government. Rather, his concern – and that of the other Founders – was with the government influencing the free exercise of religion. The “wall of separation” Jefferson envisioned was to protect religion, not the government. Far from being “neutral” toward religion, as President John Adams stated, the Constitution “was made only for a moral and religious people.” After all, church services were held in the Capitol until 1857, and Judeo-Christian values and customs are at the core of our most sacred institutions. The Founders clearly viewed government power as a critical tool in ensuring that individuals like Coach Kennedy have a right to express their faith publicly, rather than as a cudgel to suppress it. It’s also worth noting that the idea that a public school teacher would not have been permitted to invoke religion in the classroom or on the sports field would have been a shocking idea to Americans across the political spectrum up until the latter half of the 20th century.

The First Amendment plainly says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” (emphasis added). That three Justices of the Supreme Court would interpret that language to mean that a high school football coach cannot pray with his players following a game reflects just how far the left has come in its hostility toward religion and religious individuals. Far from being “neutral” toward religion, as Justice Sotomayor suggests, ruling in the opposite direction would have amounted to an affirmative action by the government to penalize religious practice generally and Christian religious practice specifically.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court withstood significant political pressure and stopped an overreaching government from banning the free exercise of religion that is protected under the Constitution. For that, all Americans – religious and non-religious alike – can be thankful.

Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @Shane_Harris_


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fred
1 month ago

The founding fathers were very religious, that’s why they put “In God We Trust” on all our money and most Government buildings, in fact there is even words in praise of God even on the top of the Washington monument showing the love and respect they had for GOD, their creator.
Doing so shows they didn’t intend any “separation of church and the state! How could they?
There is also nothing in the Consitution that alludes to keeping the church and state separate.
Their intent was to allow individual citizens to choose which religion to follow or none at all, if that was their choice and allow the freedom to choose, but to never force religion on citizens as they had experienced in England, where they had to join The Church of England, ruled and taxed by the King.
“In God We Trust” rankles the socialist left, Demoncraps and they would like to remove it, but that may be difficult, because the public might be very opposed to removing these words, and it would be so obvious that any religious Democrats might see through that and be against it.
Conservatives and Republicans would be very opposed to its removal.

Removing religion is the first thing all socialist/communist leaders do. You must follow and be loyal to their teachings without exception or face prison or death. That is what a totalitarian government is:
A Government that is centralized and dictatorial and requires complete subservience to the state:

Robert Collins
1 month ago

So, propagating LBTGQ, drag queens and CRT do not disrupt learning in our schools? Just goes to show how ignorant,perverse and convoluted these three justices are. And just think, another one is about to be sworn in today?

Becky
1 month ago

Huh. And what do those braindead mutant ‘humans’ consider the event when schools preach islamic puke? Islam, the fake religion that has murdered more humans than all the commies put together? That’s ok to have in our schools but Christian prayers are not?
Something is seriously and evilly wrong in America. Gorsuch finally got it right.

REB1957
1 month ago

Funny, I don’t remember the Democrat Socialist Communist Party complaining when the schools were teaching about the pillars of Islam, etc. In fact, the kids were to have the ability to discuss them.

LovesFreedom
1 month ago

Actually, the concept of “separation of church and state” refers to Jefferson’s and many of the other Founding Fathers’ desire that the government should not require the American people be taxed to support an established or official church as the people had been required to do prior to the revolution. While colonies of Great Britain, the colonial population in America were required to pay a tithe or tax to support the Church of England or Anglican clergy and parishes; whether the colonists were members of that church or Baptists or Methodist or Quakers. If you did not pay the tax, the civil governments could take your property or put you in jail until you did so. If you were a member of the Anglican church and desired to pay the tithe, that was your choice and the Founding Fathers had no problem with your decision. Thus the right of religious freedom to worship as one chose was instituted in America. Incidentally, most people in other nations when the United States Constitution was created did not enjoy this right; they simply attended and support with their taxes whatever church their county’s ruler attended. So all the present day American liberals, along with their three Supreme Court justices and their main stream propaganda mouth pieces either do not truly understand the concept of “separation of church and state” or are intentionally biased against Christianity.

edward
1 month ago
Reply to  LovesFreedom

They are intentionally biased! Remember, communists think you should bow your head in full faith to government. If you have faith in some other deity, then they can not claim divine power over EVERYONE. These are know as mentally deranged people!!

Becky
1 month ago
Reply to  LovesFreedom

Both. Too stupid to understand plain English, and they detest religion. Unless it’s muslim spew, of course.

Judy K.
1 month ago
Reply to  LovesFreedom

Both.

Micky Finn
1 month ago

Well researched and, equally, well written, Mr. Harris!

Casey C Matt
1 month ago

I saw where the………possible pedophile, Alan Dershowitz actually asked a relevant question and that was, “what if the coach had been muslim?”. If he were the school would have probably mandated every player on the team be issued at taxpayer expense, the stupid prayer rugs those believers tend to use….heck, maybe even have hundreds on hand for spectators. There would most certainly have been NO objections made to the coach if he had been Muslim and anyone who thinks differently needs to come back to reality.

Seaaggie76
1 month ago
Reply to  Casey C Matt

Casey C Matt. I agree with Dershowitz’s question but would extend it to all religions other than Christianity. The Left has become more anti Christian during my lifetime, disguised by an “altruistic” concern for other organized religious group when in fact it is really anti Christian and not anti religion.

Sharon Ormsby
1 month ago
Reply to  Casey C Matt

Muslims in their own mosques, bring their own prayer rugs typically, so I don’t think that would be a problem. If it were, then, like everything else, the district would just have a fundraiser, not pay out of school funds.

JEFFREY JONES
1 month ago

Arrest all the libturds for treason and send them to GITMO for punishment!

Casey C Matt
1 month ago
Reply to  JEFFREY JONES

Transport costs are too high….just shoot em!

HocasPocas
1 month ago
Reply to  JEFFREY JONES

Firing squad

Barb304
1 month ago

Like we didn’t already know this!

J. Farley
1 month ago

They can condemn God and the Lord now, But I know something they evidently don’t Know,
one day they will have to answer Jesus and God!

Tim Toroian
1 month ago
Reply to  J. Farley

And some of the “Catholics” will be greeted by Satan announcing them as hypocrites.

Nobody’s Business
1 month ago

Judges in the past have gotten this wrong about separation of church and state. If they would take the time to see what are founding fathers meant they could see that separation of church and state meant that the government couldn’t tell you what religion to follow not that you couldn’t say a prayer or praise your own god on public property. For the Democrats out there that means the government can’t tell you you have to be Catholic, or Protestant, or Methodist, or Mormon, or Buddhist, or any other religion. You are free to chose what religion you want to follow. This crap that you can’t say a prayer or praise your god on public property is just a way for Democrats to erode religion so they can turn this into a no right or wrong s**thole country!

Max
1 month ago

The goal of the Left is to do away with the influence of religion. The agenda started way back in the mid sixties and the church as a whole has allowed it and has done nothing to stop the back sliding. Major denominations keep splitting up, thus playing into the hands of those who have evil intent – DIVIDE and CONQUER. False religious groups keep leading the young away from the true God. There is a revival coming soon but after that, ALL HELL WILL BREAK LOSE.

David McCuistion
1 month ago

I agree 100% with SCOTUS. The United States was founded on the principles of Judeo-Christian ideals, which is no way, in any document for our Republic Government does it means the United States is a Christian State. The ideals provide a foundational belief for right over wrong, good over evil that was taught by major Greek philosophers. The Supreme Court ruling is a major for further preventing the United States from continuing down the moral decline of the past several years toward Socialism, which always results in a communistic government.

Jack Thomas
1 month ago

I’m amazed that AMAC Members haven’t commented on this article. As of 1:05 pm EST, not a single person has offered their view of this landmark decision affecting the religious liberty of all Americans — not just football coaches.

The media’s reaction to Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, while predictable, would be laughable if it didn’t have serious ramifications for religious liberty. The idea that there is “Separation of church and State” is a myth promoted by the Left. Those words don’t appear anywhere in the text of the U.S. Constitution. In reality, our laws as enumerated in our founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, are based upon Judeo-Christian principles which are irrevocably linked to God’s laws. You cannot have a civil society structured on these moral imperatives and still claim that church and State are separated by some theoretical wall. That argument is fundamentally false and has been consistently exploited by the Left to insulate itself from religious considerations.

It’s totally absurd and outrageous that a coach cannot hold a prayer with his team without running the risk of being fired by the school that employed him. Lockeroom prayers happen all the time, every single season, in schools and colleges all across our country for many years. If every coach was fired for holding prayers with or without student participation, there would be no inter-scholastic sports at any level. The Kennedy case, like others adjudicated before it, highlights the hostility of the secular Left toward religion, intentional and malevolent. The jackasses on the Bremerton Board of Education who obviously played along with this travesty are the ones who should be fired.

Philip Hammersley
1 month ago
Reply to  Jack Thomas

And who introduced that phrase in SCOTUS rulings? “Justice” Hugo Black, a KKK member. It was a case involving a Catholic school and the Klan hates Catholics as much as Jews and blacks! But DIMMs don’t mind the KKK since their guy, Nathan Bedford Forrest, founded it!

Micky Finn
1 month ago
Reply to  Jack Thomas

You are correct, of course.

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