Jun 28, 2022
Supreme Court sides with praying coach in landmark religious liberty case Transcript
The Supreme Court’s sided with high school football coach Joe Kennedy over his post-game prayers with students at the 50-yard line. Read the transcript here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Speaker 1: (00:00)
Another major decision by the Supreme court in a high profile case involving religious liberty and the separation of church and state. The Court’s conservative majority ruled today that a public high school football coach in Washington state has the right to pray on the 50 yard line after a game with members of his team, an act that he lost his job over. ABC’s Devin Dwyer has been following this case and has the latest reaction to today’s ruling.
Joe Kennedy: (00:26)
Lord, I’d like to lift up these guys for coming out here today.
Devin Dwyer: (00:28)
He said his faith compels him to pray on the field of battle and that the first amendment doesn’t stand in the way.
Joe Kennedy: (00:34)
This is a right for everybody. It doesn’t matter if you’re this religion or that religion or have no faith whatsoever.
Devin Dwyer: (00:40)
For seven years, former high school football coach Joe Kennedy ended each game at the 50 yard line, sometimes kneeling alone, other times surrounded by his impressionable young players. The school district suspended Kennedy in 2015 saying separation of church and state required him to stop. But today, the US Supreme court said that was a mistake. Justice Neil Gorsuch joined by five other conservatives writing, “Here, a government sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance,” adding, “The Constitution neither mandates nor tolerates that kind of discrimination.”
Joe Kennedy: (01:14)
There’s no words for it. You just are in absolute awe. And it’s just amazing that it’s finally over.
Devin Dwyer: (01:21)
How broad is your case going to be?
Joe Kennedy: (01:24)
This is a huge win for all Americans. Nobody should be forced to pray, nobody should have to hide their prayers.
Devin Dwyer: (01:30)
Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivering appointed dissent, saying, “These scenes clearly amount to state entanglement with religion,” writing, “Official-led prayer strikes at the core of our constitutional protections for the religious liberty of students and parents.”
Rachel Laser: (01:45)
The conservative block on the Supreme Court triggered the greatest loss of religious freedom in a generation.
Devin Dwyer: (01:51)
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the only justice who himself is a school coach, had also worried about students feeling coerced to pray to play.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh: (02:00)
Every player’s trying to get on the good side of the coach, and every parent is worried about the coach exercising favoritism.
Devin Dwyer: (02:10)
Kavanaugh in the end siding with Coach Kennedy, though not explaining his vote.
Joe Kennedy: (02:15)
The whole favoritism thing, that should never happen in any circumstances for whatever reason.
Devin Dwyer: (02:21)
Some Bremerton parents like Paul Peterson, who raised his children Christian and whose son played for Coach Kennedy in 2010, worry favoritism and coercion did happen and now will continue to happen.
Paul Peterson: (02:32)
If you are a student of a minority faith or of no faith and you see all your team going out, you have a choice to either be part of the team or to go against the team, to go against the coach, and to stand on your own. And I mean, I would say that that’s a difficult choice for a child to make.
Devin Dwyer: (02:50)
Tonight, the school district in a statement says its attorneys will work to make sure the campus remains a welcoming, inclusive environment and that it cannot yet confirm whether Kennedy will be back coaching in the fall.
Devin Dwyer: (03:01)
What’s your message to families, Coach, who are concerned about the impact this might have?
Joe Kennedy: (03:06)
Well, the communication is so paramount between the parents and the players and the coaches. That’s all they ever had to do with me is just share, “Hey, I don’t want my kid part of this,” which is perfectly fine.
Devin Dwyer: (03:17)
The Court’s decision, the latest in a series of major wins for religious conservatives, allowing a chaplain to pray and lay hands on an inmate as he’s put to death, allowing the Christian flag to fly from one of Boston City Hall flag poles, and approving taxpayer funded tuition assistance for religious schools in Maine.
Sarah Isgur: (03:36)
Animosity toward religion, a hostility toward religion; that is not going to fly under this Court’s jurisprudence under the free exercise clause.
Devin Dwyer: (03:44)
What’s your prayer tonight?
Joe Kennedy: (03:45)
Thank God it’s over. And get me back on the field as quick as possible.
George Stephanopoulos: (03:50)
Hi, everyone. George Stephanopoulos here. Thanks for checking out the ABC News YouTube channel. If you’d like to get more videos, show highlights and watch live event coverage, click on the right over here to subscribe to our channel. And don’t forget to download the ABC News app for breaking news alerts. Thanks for watching.