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09/04/2017 United States (First Liberty Institute) – “Banning all coaches from praying silently in public just because they can be seen is wrong,” First Liberty President and CEO Kelly Shackelford stated in a press release. “This is not the America contemplated by our Constitution,” said Shackelford, after three federal judges upheld a school’s prayer ban against Coach Joe Kennedy. First Liberty vows to appeal the decision.

Last week, on Wednesday, August 23, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit handed down its ruling in the case of Joe Kennedy, a high school football coach at Bremerton High School in Washington State who was fired over his postgame, on-the-field prayers.

“According to the Ninth Circuit, it is unconstitutional for a coach to make a sign of the cross or bow his head in prayer when a player gets hurt,” stated Mike Berry, Deputy General Counsel to First Liberty. “We are deeply disappointed by the decision.”

The court allowed the school to ban Coach Kennedy from praying and argued that Coach Kennedy’s prayers were made in his capacity as a public employee, rather than being personal, private speech protected by the First Amendment.

The problem with Coach Kennedy’s prayers, according to the Ninth Circuit, is that he prayed in a place where he could be seen.

“It’s almost like prayer is the new pornography,” Shackelford told Fox News.

The court stated, however, that he would have been protected by the First Amendment had Coach Kennedy simply prayed by himself in his office while brainstorming plays, if he prayed “non-demonstratively,” or if he prayed in a secluded place at the school, like somewhere in the press box.

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