This week, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of former football coach Joseph Kennedy in a landmark case on religious freedom. The court's decision is not only a triumph for Kennedy but also for every individual's right to practice their faith without government interference.
Kennedy's story is an example of how the next generation can and should stand up for their constitutional freedoms.
Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion.
"The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike," Gorsuch wrote.
This case in particular validated that no individual should have to decide between their job and living out their faith. Every American should have the freedom and safety to practice their religious beliefs without government intervention or fear of repercussions.
As time has shown us, our constitutional rights will continually be threatened. Young adults can learn from Kennedy about the value of our freedoms and how to preserve them.
Kennedy demonstrated that in the face of opposition, we can't waver on our religious beliefs.
A high school football coach in Bremerton, Washington, Kennedy would kneel after games at the 50-yard line. When he kneeled, he would say a prayer.
In an interview with The Daily Signal, Kennedy said, "I had a covenant with God from the very beginning when I accepted the job that I would give him the credit and thank him after every game, win or lose."
Over time, students started joining Kennedy in prayer. When the school district of Bremerton heard about it, it told him he could no longer pray with his players.
Kennedy stopped leading students in prayer but continued to pray on the field privately. The district responded by putting him on leave and eventually did not renew his contract.
Kennedy said, "Nobody should have to be fired or worry about their job if they show signs of faith."
His response was to take legal action and trust the system to protect his First Amendment rights. Kennedy didn't allow losing his job to keep him from living out his faith.
Kennedy demonstrates that standing up for your freedoms requires perseverance. His legal pursuits would take over seven years.
In the beginning, a district court judge would rule against Kennedy and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed the district's decision. Kennedy then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to take his case in 2019.
Kennedy continued to fight for his faith. He suffered losses in the lower courts and a three-judge panel on the 9th Circuit ruled in favor of the school district.
When the full 9th Circuit declined to hear his case, he once again appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court agreed to take the case in January of 2022 and recently ruled in his favor.
While in the midst of pursuing legal action, Kennedy said, "I can look at myself in the mirror, look at my team over the years, and hold my head up high and look them in the eyes and say, 'Hey, I fought the good fight, I didn't give up.'"
Taking steps through the proper legal channels can take time, but Kennedy demonstrated that it was worth it. He didn't give up when he faced opposition.
Rather, Kennedy used the hurdles he encountered as motivation to keep fighting for what he believed in.
Finally, Kennedy displays the importance of protecting our constitutional rights.
Kennedy could have quietly let the issue go. Instead, he decided to sue the school district so that others would not have to face similar situations.
Having served our country in the Marines for 20 years, Kennedy said, "Supporting and defending the Constitution means a lot to me."
When our nation was formed, our Founding Fathers stressed the importance of safeguarding our religious freedoms in the Constitution.
James Madison, our fourth president known as the Father of the Constitution, was a major advocate for religious freedom.
In 1785, Madison wrote the Memorial and Remonstrance advocating for religious freedom. In his first point, he stated, "The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate."
In Virginia's Constitution, Madison argued for language referring to religious freedom to be changed from "fullest toleration" to "free exercise of religion." He believed the first use would limit this right rather than guarantee it.
Madison, like many of our forefathers, believed that individuals should have the freedom to pursue their faith without the fear of persecution. And, Kennedy did just as our Founding Fathers intended — standing up to any threat against them.
While there are many examples young adults can take from Kennedy's trial, they can be reassured that our current Supreme Court will protect their freedoms. Yet, as the years go on, that protection is not guaranteed.
When the government interferes with our livelihood, we cannot stand idly by. If we do not continually stand up for our freedoms, who will?
Dr. Kent Ingle serves as the president of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, one of the fastest growing private universities in the nation. A champion of innovative educational design, Ingle is the author of "Framework Leadership.'' Read Kent Ingle's Reports — More Here.
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