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Rubio, Lankford, And Bicameral Colleagues Stand With Coach Kennedy

Mar 3, 2022 | Press Releases

Washington D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio joined Senator James Lankford (R-OK), U.S. Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), and a group of 54 bicameral members of Congress in filing a brief before the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Coach Joe Kennedy in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. In October 2021, Senator Rubio joined Senator Lankford in filing a certiorari stage amicus brief was sent to ask the Supreme Court to grant a review and subsequently reverse the Ninth Circuit’s decision that allowed Coach Kennedy to be fired for silently kneeling and praying after school football games. On January 14, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. 
Click here for the full text of the amicus brief. 
Click here for a full list of cosponsors.
Kennedy was head coach for the Bremerton High School junior varsity football team and an assistant coach for the varsity team. After each game, he waited until the players cleared the field, then took a knee and silently prayed. Bremerton High School sent Kennedy a letter demanding he stop praying after games. In 2015, Lankford led a letter to the School District in support of Kennedy. Coach Kennedy’s contract with Bremerton School District was not renewed, resulting in his termination. 
Kennedy filed a lawsuit against Bremerton School District, which a federal district court dismissed. On appeal, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit argued Kennedy’s prayers were not protected by the Constitution because he was praying as a public employee rather than  in his private, personal capacity. In 2019, Coach Kennedy asked the Supreme Court to review the case and fifteen Members of Congress, led by Senator Lankford, filed an amicus brief in support of Coach Kennedy. The Court denied review of the case, with a concurring statement by four Justices requesting more information. As such, the case went back to the lower courts. In March 2021, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit upheld the District Court’s decision that Kennedy’s silent, public prayers after football games violate the Establishment Clause, and the circuit court denied an appeal for review.