Coaches play an important role in establishing a nondiscriminatory environment in public-school athletics, both on and off the field. In addition to the duties associated with training a team for athletic competition, coaches, like teachers, are hired to communicate with players and spectators both verbally and demonstratively. Coaches are expected to not only teach sports techniques, but also teach character, leadership, sportsmanship, and other positive character traits. In Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, courts from the district level to the Supreme Court have considered how Coach Joe Kennedy's role as a coach factored into his right to pray on the 50-yard line directly following his team's high school football games.
This Article reviews Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, from its inception through its current status, including the significance of Justice Alito's concurring opinion issued in conjunction with the United States Supreme Court's denial of Coach Kennedy's Petition for Writ of Certiorari. After discussing the underlying facts, Part I provides an overview and analysis of the district and circuit courts' rulings focusing particularly on the relationship between employee speech and the First Amendment religion clauses. Part II discusses the implications of Justice Alito's concurring opinion in denying Coach Kennedy's petition. And finally, Part III discusses the future of religious speech jurisprudence for public school employees, now that Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are on the Supreme Court bench.
Dr. Brett Geier and Ann E. Blankenship-Knox, When Speech Is Your Stock in Trade: What Kennedy v. Bremerton School District Reveals about the Future of Employee Speech and Religion Jurisprudence, 42 Campbell L. Rev. 31 (2020).