It’s only been a few days since the U.S. Supreme Court stripped millions of people of their right to access safe and legal abortion care, and yet, here they are again, refusing to let us have even a moment’s rest before issuing another round of horrible decisions.
Today, the court ruled in favor of a former public high school football coach, in the state of Washington, who insisted on leading on-field prayers with his players immediately following their games.
“After learning of this practice, the school district asked him to stop, offering various accommodations that would have allowed him to pray without religiously coercing students, endangering safety, or risking a perception that his religious message bore the school’s imprimatur,” writes the ACLU. “Instead, the coach continued to lead his student-athletes in on-field public prayers after games, and then sued the school district, claiming a First Amendment right to do so.”
Because the current Supreme Court is stacked with Christian zealots, they ruled in favor of the coach, Joseph Kennedy. They decided that these on-field prayers were fine because when he led them, he “was not engaged in speech ‘ordinarily within the scope’ of his duties as a coach.” Meaning because he wasn’t actively talking about game strategy or something directly related to football, and because the game was technically over—even though he admits he was still on the job at the time!—it’s fine for an authority figure at a public school to pressure teenagers into public prayer.
This follows last week’s decision allowing (or arguably mandating) that taxpayer funds be used for religious education. Both decisions take a sledgehammer to the separation of church and state and both are very clearly not about the First Amendment or religious freedom in general, but specifically about evangelical Christian propagation.
As if the decision itself weren’t bad enough (it is!), the opinion written by Neil Gorsuch is filled with massive lies, including framing the issue at hand as one regarding “private prayer,” which it objectively is not—because the only way these ultra-conservative justices can justify their decisions is via lies and omissions.
In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, “Today’s decision is particularly misguided because it elevates the religious rights of a school official, who voluntarily accepted public employment and the limits that public employment entails, over those of his students, who are required to attend school and who this Court has long recognized are particularly vulnerable and deserving of protection.”
“In doing so,” she continued, “the Court sets us further down a perilous path in forcing States to entangle themselves with religion, with all of our rights hanging in the balance.”