Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, praised the Supreme Court on Monday for ruling in favor of a Christian former public high school football coach who sued after being suspended from his job for refusing to stop leading postgame prayers with players on the field.
The justices, in a 6-3 decision, sided with Joseph Kennedy, who until 2015 was a part-time assistant football coach in Bremerton, Washington.
"Today, the Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit’s decision that allowed Coach Kennedy, a high school football coach in the State of Washington, to be fired for silently kneeling and praying after his team’s games," Cruz said in a statement.
"The legal question at the heart of this case was whether the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals got it right when they ruled that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prevents government from establishing a religion, means that a government institution must fire a public employee who privately practices his or her faith if there's a chance someone may interpret the individual’s expression of faith as government-endorsed religion.
"Not only is that conclusion patently absurd, it completely ignores the original understanding of the First Amendment and Supreme Court precedent. That’s what the Supreme Court corrected today."
Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the court’s majority opinion, which rejected the local school district's concerns that, in a public school setting, Kennedy's prayers and Christian-infused speeches could be seen as coercive to students or a governmental endorsement of a particular religion in violation of the "establishment clause" of the First Amendment.
Cruz said that the establishment clause frequently gets misunderstood.
"It’s not some kind of disinfectant used to silence individuals who exercise their faith or to remove faith from the public square," Cruz said. "Rather, both the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause are meant to operate in tandem to stop government from persecuting faith, as we saw the Bremerton School District do to Coach Kennedy.
"I am proud to be part of a group of 11 Senators and 14 Representatives that filed an amicus brief with the Court that argued in defense of Coach Kennedy's free exercise of his faith. I'm thankful the Supreme Court fully enforced the First Amendment — in a major victory for religious liberty — and upheld our God-given right to practice our faith."
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