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No right is more fundamental to our Constitution than the freedom of every American to live, work and worship in accordance with his or her faith. Yet religious liberty in America has never been in greater danger than it is today.
It seems like every few years left-wing organizations mount a new effort to purge the free exercise of religion from American society. A few years ago, they tried to force a small bakery owner to make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony. Before that, the left sued to ban the display of the Ten Commandments on public property. Before that, they wanted to remove crosses and Christmas nativity scenes from town squares.
Now, the left is persecuting public employees who practice their faith anywhere but behind closed doors.
Joe Kennedy, who coached high school football in Bremerton, Washington, with his players on the field (First Liberty Institute)
This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, a case in which high school football coach Joe Kennedy lost his job because he engaged in silent, personal prayers of thanks after football games. The Ninth Circuit Court not only upheld Coach Kennedy’s suspension – it suggested that getting rid of the coach was perhaps even constitutionally required, simply because his personal prayers occurred during work hours and could be seen by others. If the Ninth Circuit’s overt hostility to religious practice is allowed to stand, nearly all public employees would lose their right to religious expression, and millions of faithful Americans would be driven out of public life.
That’s why the conservative advocacy group I founded, Advancing American Freedom, joined Young America’s Foundation, Alliance Defending Freedom, and 69 additional organizations and leaders in filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of Coach Kennedy. We argue that brief prayers of personal thanks are protected by the First Amendment, and that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling will severely curtail the private religious speech and freedom of public officials. We are asking our nation’s highest court to reverse the decision, take a firm stand in defense of religious liberty, and protect the God-given rights of every American citizen.
People of faith do not turn their devotion off and on like a light switch, and we must reject any attempt by the government to control private religious expression. In fact, many religious Americans enter public service as a way to live out the principles of their faith by serving others.
Under the Ninth Circuit’s reasoning, virtually any expression of religion by public employees would be prohibited. Your child’s teacher could be fired for bowing her head in silent prayer before lunch in the school cafeteria. Your friend who works at the DMV could lose his job for keeping a copy of the Koran visibly on his desk. A Jewish government employee might be asked to remove his yarmulke through the duration of each workday. Such things should never be allowed to happen in the Land of the Free.
The Ninth Circuit is flat wrong that public officials can be required to forego praying while performing the duties to which God has called them. As someone who has had the honor of serving in public office, I can say with absolute certainty that I could not have possibly done my job well without being on my knees, offering thanks and seeking wisdom each and every day.
Discriminating against Americans based on their faith is unconstitutional, unconscionable and un-American. Allowing such discrimination to stand would be a great tragedy for our nation, and would deal a devastating blow to the religious freedom that is the lifeblood of our Republic.