Attorney General Alan Wilson part of 21-state effort to protect religious freedom

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) – Aug. 3, 2020 – South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson is asking the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to protect the religious freedom of public employees. He joined a 21-state amicus brief filed with the court in a Texas case. Joe Kennedy coached football at Bremerton High School until he was suspended midway through the season for praying silently on the field after each game. The school district prohibited Kennedy from coaching out of baseless fear that his individual prayers violated the Establishment Clause.

“No reasonable person would believe that Coach Kennedy’s silent prayers on the football field are government endorsement of religion, so the school district cannot justify its actions under the Establishment Clause,” Attorney General Wilson said. “The school district’s action demonstrates hostility toward religion. It’s basically saying that public employees cannot exercise their right to worship without fear of losing their jobs.”

A lower court ruled against Coach Kennedy. Last year, when he appealed to the United States Supreme Court, Justice Alito—joined by Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh—expressed concern that the lower courts had improperly read the Establishment Clause to require school control over virtually everything an employee does, even when off-duty. After the district court again ruled for the school district, Coach Kennedy’s case is once again before the Ninth Circuit. Texas is leading the amicus brief, which argues in defense of the religious liberty guaranteed to Coach Kennedy and all public employees by the First Amendment.

Denying public employees the right to engage in private religious expression, such as kneeling in silent prayer for less than a minute, also directly threatens religious diversity. By forcing employees to forgo their constitutionally protected right to religious liberty, public institutions ensure that their employees must either hide their beliefs entirely or hold no religious beliefs at all.

You can read the brief here.

Schedule a Tour or Visit

Welcome to the on-line office for Attorney General Alan Wilson. Please visit the Contact Us page to stay in touch.

image description
Columbia, SC

Rembert Dennis Building | 1000 Assembly Street,

Room 519 | Columbia, S.C. 29201

Phone: 1-803-734-3970 | Fax: (803) 253-6283

Back to top