WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court today further blurred the line between church and state with its ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, a case involving a football coach who used his position to conduct public prayers at midfield after games. The National Education Association, the nation’s largest union representing more than 3 million educators, filed an amicus brief in the case, arguing that the coach’s actions — which created a public controversy around the prayers, led to threats against district staff, and caused some students to feel pressured to join the prayers — were not protected by the First Amendment.
The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Becky Pringle:
“All students — regardless of their race, gender or religion — should feel safe and secure from sectarian religious coercion in their public schools. Yet the Supreme Court stretched the record to reach the wrong conclusion in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. The Constitution should protect public school students from being coerced into religious activity. The court’s decision here does the opposite: it ignores the real-life pressure and coercion that students will feel when school officials stage public religious observances in class or at school events.
“What is equally troubling is that the court’s decision today privileges and protects specific sectarian religious speech while a long line of previous decisions gives educators no protection whatsoever for speaking out on corruption, abuse, and dangers to public safety. The court today hints that perhaps there may be a different rule, at least for religious expressions at school, but sheds no light on what that rule might be. The result is to uphold one individual’s prayer at a school event under a ruling that will muddy precedent and confuse educators and school administrators, leaving kids vulnerable to religious coercion. There is no way to look at this ruling other than what it is: another example of a Supreme Court’s conservative super-majority continuing its politicized agenda.”
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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, students preparing to become teachers, healthcare workers, and public employees. Learn more at www.nea.org.