Why did SCOTUS lie about the Football Coach case?

As I’m sure you are probably aware, SCOTUS is now flexing their new Christian Nationalistic muscles. Last week Roe V. Wade was washed away despite the previous assurances, under oath from the justices that did it, that it was well-established and would not be altered.

So what else has happened?

It all just keeps piling up. To add to the above, this past week they ruled that a Christian football coach could pray on the 50 yard line.

That sounds rather bland, and not a big deal.

It actually is a very very big deal, so let’s dig into this one a bit so that you can transparently see just how corrupt and utterly unfit for purpose SCOTUS has now become.

The ruling opens the door for fanatical Christian Nationalism to impose itself within a state funded educational context. Separation of church and state has been a well-established principle that has up until now prevailed. This new ruling breaches Jefferson’s wall of separation.

There are a few facts regarding this case that I will surface. Knowing these will enable you to begin to appreciate just how truly egregious this ruling actually is.

What is the backstory here?

It concerns Joe Kennedy, a former assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in Washington State.

Back in 2015, as a newly converted Christian, he started very public prayer meetings with players on the 50 yard line while still on the clock.

To be wholly clear, this ruling was not actually about prayer or even belief, but instead is about the intrusion into a state funded school by what can best be described as performative religious theatre that had been crafted by the coach to pressure students into joining his fanatical religious cult.

Things he could have done if this was simply about his beliefs or prayers include these options …

  • Pray silently
  • Pray in the locker room privately

Instead, he opted to setup a religious circus to suck in students. This created, by design, a media scrum. This 50 yard line meet-up was so very blatantly over the church / state line.

The school, under guidance from their lawyers, advised him “Please Don’t do this” because he was breaking the law. He promised to stop. Unfortunately a group called Liberty Institute whispered in his ear and told him – keep going, so he did.

They needed a martyr and he fitted the bill if he was willing.

He was.

Since the religious circus carried on and he also neglected his actual duties as coach because of it, the school responded by putting him on paid leave.

By Dec 2015, the school advised him that they would not automatically renew his contract.

It was not just about the public prayer. He was so focused on pandering to the media that he had not been supervising the kids he was responsible for. His performative theatre mattered to him far more than actually looking after the kids.

Fact Check: Kennedy was offered an “accommodation that would allow him to pray after games away from his players,” and he rejected it

How the Legal Timeline played out

With a bit of vigorous prodding from first Liberty, he filed a federal lawsuit in Aug 2016.

He lost that case by Sep 2016.

The case then went to the appellate court, and then on to the full appellate court. He lost every time, but they kept going. It was not his money being burned, First Liberty is a non-profit that lives off donations, so cases like this that make the spotlight means they get more donations. They tick all the boxes you would expect, opposed to Cakes for gay people (Yes, that case was them as well), anti LGBT in general, etc…

First Liberty next took the case to the Supreme Court in 2018.

Back then the makeup of the court was different. At that time they refused to take the case for this stated reason …

In this case, important unresolved factual questions would make it very difficult if not impossible at this stage to decide the free speech question that the petition asks us to review….

…The key question, therefore, is whether petitioner showed that he was likely to prevail on his claim that the termination of his employment violated his free speech rights…

…If the likely reason was simply petitioner’s neglect of his duties—if, for exam- ple, he was supposed to have been actively supervising the players after they had left the field but instead left them unsupervised while he prayed on his own—his free speech claim would likely fail. …

…Unfortunately, the District Court’s brief, informal oral decision did not make any clear finding about what peti- tioner was likely to be able to prove….

In March 2020 they attempted to clarify all this and pushed for a summary judgement in the district court. That failed.

The judge in that case noted …

“the greatest threat posed by Kennedy’s prayer is its potential to subtly coerce the behavior of students attending games voluntarily or by requirement.”

The judge was spot on. It created a huge conflict of interest. Players, desperate to remain in favour with the coach, would be sucked into his religious theatre. That’s not theory, it actually happened.

Fact Check: The school district’s lawyers said the coercive pressure was very real in the brief they filed with the Supreme Court.

Once again the case goes back to the appellate – rejected.

Off to the full Ninth Circuit – nope rejected.

Then last last September 2021 they hit the jackpot. The new fanatically religious Supreme Court agreed to take the case, and so on Monday 27th June 2022, we got the utterly batty decision handed down.

That final decision is available via this link to the SCOTUS website here.

There Justice Neil Gorsuch opens that judgement as follows …

Petitioner Joseph Kennedy lost his job as a high school football coach in the Bremerton School District after he knelt at midfield after games to offer a quiet personal prayer. 

SCOTUS Lie 1 – “quiet”


The word “quiet” appears 14 times.

Here is that “quiet personal prayer” in action …

SCOTUS Lie 2 – “Lost his Job”

He was not fired, he was put on paid leave while they sorted things out after he refused sensible compromises.

When his existing contract expired, he chose not to reapply.

This Case now has consequences

The moment that SCOTUS indicated that they were going to take up this case it was clear how they would rule.

Religious teachers now have backing from SCOTUS to not do their job, but to instead promote Jesus.

It’s not as if none of this was a surprise. The actual consequences were already clearly visible in Kennedy’s case … as noted by dissenting SCOTUS justices and also via one other previous judge in an earlier case …

“Kennedy’s attempt to draw nationwide attention to his challenge to [the school district] compels the conclusion that he was not engaging in private prayer, but was instead engaging in public speech of an overtly religious nature while performing his job duties,” wrote Judge Milan Smith for the 9th Circuit. …

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan pointed out that parents said their sons felt pressure to join the coach in his on-field prayers. 

Retiring Justice Stephen G. Breyer said history shows that religion can be “divisive,” and the court should enforce a separation of church and state.

Honestly, those above all do get it. Unfortunately, the final decision was made by fanatical Christian Nationalists who have a very specific religious agenda, one that is not driven by either the law or facts.

Bottom Line

SCOTUS granted the religious right a win by lying about the facts of the case.

While the religious might indeed celebrate this as a “win”, they have actually lost in a very big way. Given all that has already happened, I would not have thought it possible, but this “win” means they have lost even more credibility. It is a “win” that brings even more disrepute to their message. The strongest argument against Christianity comes via the actual behaviour and actions of those that deeply embrace it all as “truth”.

They might argue that the rapidly increasing numbers of Nones, and the rapidly shrinking numbers of people filling the Pews is a sign that Satan has been doing nefarious things. Sorry guys, you totally own that yourselves, no supernatural help is needed to explain that trend.

SCOTUS has lost all credibility.

Trump has successfully corrupted a political party, the GOP is no longer what it once was. He has also successfully corrupted an entire religious demographic. The evangelicals have rather firmly established their reputation as a cult of lies, deceit, intolerance, and raw bigotry. The actual teachings of Jesus are now a wholly alien concept to most of them.

To add to all of that, we now have a Christian Nationalistic SCOTUS, no longer what it once was, but instead utterly corrupted and deeply divisive.

It is perhaps a tad 2D and simplistic to blame Trump for it all. The seeds were sown long before he set foot into the political arena. Many others have had a hand in it all. Nevertheless, he was a catalyst that unleashed much that had previously simmered away under the covers slowly building up.

One last Quote about Prayer

You know the one … yes that one … the ever so very obvious one.

But hey, for completeness, here it is …

5. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 

6. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 

Matthew 6:5-6

One Last Twist

The football coach, Kennedy, no longer lives in Washington State. He upped sticks and moved 2,800 miles to Florida in 2019. We know this because the school district filed paperwork with the Supreme Court pointing this out and arguing that the case should be rejected because Kennedy no longer lives in the state. The petition was asking for his old job back, so how exactly is that going to work now?

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