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Supreme Court rules in favor of prayer in high school sports: Attorney General Maura Healey ‘disappointed’ in decision


Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey expressed disappointment in the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in support of high school coaches praying on the field after games.

In the court’s Monday-morning ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton School, justices voted 6-3 to side with a high school football coach from Washington state who was banned and later fired by the school district for kneeling and praying on the field after games.

“Mr. Kennedy prayed during a period when school employees were free to speak with a friend, call for a reservation at a restaurant, check email, or attend to other personal matters. He offered his prayers quietly while his students were otherwise occupied,” Gorsuch wrote in the court’s majority opinion. “Both the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect expressions like Mr. Kennedy’s. Nor does a proper understanding of the Amendment’s Establishment Clause require the government to single out private religious speech for special disfavor.”

In a brief co-authored by Attorney Generals from Massachusetts, New York, California, Delaware, Hawaii , Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and The District Of Columbia, Healey backs her contemporaries’ claim that the coaches prayers were not protected under the First Amendment because he was on duty and engaged in his job responsibilities immediately after the game while students were still on the field.

“Sports can be a powerful tool for bringing people from all backgrounds together, and kids from diverse religious backgrounds should have the chance to be part of a team without being pressured to pray,” Attorney General Healey said in a statement. “The football field is for playing, not for forcing religion on children. I’m disappointed that the Court failed to recognize that team prayer can be coercive, alienating, and exclusionary for many student-athletes and their families.”

The Supreme Court’s most recent ruling on prayer in high school sports comes at the tail-end of the current term where the Court releases decisions on the most far-reaching and impactful topics.

On Friday, the Court ruled to overturn the 50-year-old precedent of Roe v. Wade, a landmark case that legalized abortion nationwide. The Friday decision immediately triggered abortion bans in roughly half the states.

“I want to be clear that this is an assault and affront achieved by right-wing ideologues who are doing their damnedest to keep women down….” Healey said in a GBH interview after Friday’s ruling. “It’s a real gut-punch today, just thinking about the Supreme Court having taken us so far backward — and to be clear, what (Justice) Alito has come up with is complete BS.”

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