Supreme Court allows coach’s prayers in protecting religious expression

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on First Amendment grounds that a high school football coach had the right to lead a voluntary prayer with his players on the field after games. Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority that it was vital to allow religious expression, and not every school employee activity is official conduct, otherwise “a school could fire a Muslim teacher for wearing a head scarf in the classroom or prohibit a Christian aide from praying quietly over her lunch in the cafeteria.” (The New York Times, June 27, 2022, by Adam Liptak)

The court held that the coach was not acting as a school official when he called for the prayers so was not violating the separation of church and state and endorsing a particular religion. The court said it found no evidence that any student had been coerced to participate. In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that the prayer was not a personal, quiet observance but involved students, and parents told the school that their children joined the prayers to keep from creating a division between themselves and their teammates. (Reason, June 27, 2022, by Scott Shackford)

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