(NewsNation) — Crowds of people gathered at the Supreme Court building Monday, praying and kneeling as the U.S. Supreme Court announced the fate of a case of a high school football coach from Washington state.
The coach, Joe Kennedy, would head out onto the football field at Bremerton High School after games and pray. He initially prayed alone on the 50-yard line but said students started joining him. The school district raised concerns over his actions, told him to stop, later placing him on paid leave and deciding not to rehire him. They claimed students could feel pressured to join the prayer groups after games.
Maintaining that he would pray on his behalf after the football games, Kennedy took his case to the Supreme Court. Monday, the High Court ruled 6-3 in favor of the coach, saying the coach’s prayer was protected by the First Amendment.
Kennedy joined NewsNation’s Rush Hour to speak about the ruling Monday evening.
“I feel vindicated. That’s the only way I can say it. I’m just smiling. I can’t stop smiling and thinking that seven years of all this work in a long, drawn-out fight has been absolutely worth it in the end,” he said.
Kennedy hopes to return to the school and continue coaching, saying that’s all he’s asked for in the process.
When asked how he feels about people with less popular belief systems and religions having the same rights due to the ruling, Kennedy replied: “That’s a great thing about the First Amendment. It applies to all Americans. It’s not just for one, you know, specific belief. It’s for all Americans that have any faith or no faith.”
Kennedy added: “This isn’t a religious thing. This is a free exercise. This is about the freedoms of Americans and nothing to do with trying to get people to join me or make people feel weird about what I do.”
The School District commented that the ruling was an assault on the separation of church and state, but that they will continue to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for students and staff.