Before a game, a coach crosses his arms. Before the bell sounds, a teacher reads the Bible aloud. A coach who holds a Christian youth club after school in his house.
While hearing arguments regarding a former public high school football coach from Washington state who intended to bow and pray in the stadium after games, Supreme Court justices addressed all of those hypothetical circumstances. The judges were discussing how to strike a balance between instructors’ and coaches’ religion and free speech rights and students’ right not to be coerced into religious activities, per report.
The court’s conservative majority appeared sympathetic to the coach, while the court’s three liberals were doubtful. The outcome may help to increase acceptance of various religious activities in public schools.
There’s a distinction between a coach’s prayer in a circle with classmates or in the dressing room and “while players are distributing after the game,” according to Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who played sports in school and has coached his daughters’ teams. “This wasn’t like, ‘Huddle up, everybody,'” Kavauagh stated at one point, implying that the coach’s activity was OK.
What if the coach had instead organized an after-school religious youth group at his house, with children free to attend or not? Justice Amy Coney Barrett wondered. She wondered if the school would have been able to object.
Despite being scheduled for only one hour, the high court arguments extended over two hours. At different times during the argument, the justices and attorneys arguing the issue referenced teachers and coaches who may wear ash on their faces on Ash Wednesday, kneel during the national anthem to protest racism, or post political signs in their front yards to express their political views. Tim Tebow, the former Professional football player who was renowned for bowing in prayers on the field, and Mohamed Salah, the Egyptian football sensation who sits down and presses his forehead to the ground after a score, were both mentioned.