The Kennedy Case and Minority Religions
While a positive ruling for Coach Kennedy would help Christians, it would also greatly assist members of other religions in America.
From MSN. Last year, the 9th Circuit ruled that the Constitution’s ban on government establishment of religion required a Seattle-area public school to punish its football coach, Joseph Kennedy, after he knelt on the 50-yard line, bowed his head, closed his eyes “and prayed a brief, silent prayer.” He defied the school’s long-running campaign to silence his public displays of faith. The school ultimately fired him.
Kennedy appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that his suspension from the school violated his rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.
The lower court reasoned that Kennedy’s quiet prayer might signal that the public school had unconstitutionally endorsed religion or that a student might feel compelled to join him, even if doing so would violate the student’s conscience. The court’s concern that students from minority faiths might feel offended or coerced into prayer, however misguided, is no doubt sincere.
But orthodox members of minority faiths like Judaism and Islam have more to fear from a government that seeks to drive faith from the public square than from one that allows their neighbors to publicly profess their faith.
Don’t ask educators to compromise their faith
Observant Jews and Muslims engage in public practices that may catch the attention of others. For example, a Jewish coach standing on the sidelines at a football game would be required under Jewish law to make a blessing whenever he eats or drinks. Jews and Muslims wear distinctive attire, which could prompt questions from students that a teacher would naturally answer. The 9th Circuit’s decision would allow or even require public schools to ban such private religious conduct.
The school in this case offered to let coach Kennedy keep his job if he agreed to pray at a later time when no students would see him….
But such a “compromise” might put adherents of both Judaism and Islam in Kennedy’s dilemma. Both faiths require adherents to pray during certain times of the day. Thus, an observant Jewish or Muslim staff member may feel religiously obligated to pray at a game, or while riding on the bus during a field trip. Under the 9th Circuit’s view, reciting such prayers would be unconstitutional….
Don’t let secularism exclude faithful from our schools
If Kennedy’s prayer can be viewed as impermissible, then so can a teacher wearing any religious attire, such as a crucifix, yarmulke or hijab, or any other display of faith, like marking one’s forehead with an ash cross on Ash Wednesday.
This is the sort of hostility to religion that people of faith, especially minority faiths, experience in countries like France and Belgium, which restrict the presence of religion in the public square. This cannot be our law. Our Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment to accommodate America’s diversity of religious practices and viewpoints, not to eliminate religious exercise….
How are you praying about the Coach Kennedy case? Share your thoughts and prayers below.
(Excerpt from MSN. Photo Credit: Anton Mislawsky on Unsplash)
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