The Supreme Court’s term is drawing to a close in the coming weeks, and the most anticipated rulings will be handed down during this time.
About 18 decisions are still pending before the Supreme Court, covering some of the most divisive and impactful issues facing the country. Here are the ones that are arguably the most significant.
5. Kennedy v. Bremerton School District
High school football coach Joseph Kennedy lost his job after he insisted on reciting post-game prayers on the 50-year-line, despite his employer, the Bremerton School District, instructing him to stop. Kennedy is claiming this violated his First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion, while the school district claims that a prayer from a public school employee ran afoul of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
The school district told Kennedy to stop reciting prayers on the field after an opposing coach brought it to the principal’s attention. He did, temporarily, then notified the school that he would resume the practice. The situation garnered media attention, and when Kennedy announced that he would go back to praying on the field, it raised security concerns. When he did pray after the game, a number of people stormed the field in support.
The school district then offered to let Kennedy pray in other locations before and after games, or for him to pray on the 50-yard line after everyone else had left the premises, but he refused, insisting that he would continue his regular practice. This eventually led to the school district taking action against him.
At issue is whether Kennedy’s prayer constituted government speech because he was a government employee, in which case it would not be protected. The court is also looking at whether, if the prayer is protected private speech, the school could still tell him to stop so that they would not be viewed as endorsing religion.
During oral arguments, a number of justices appeared to lean toward Kennedy’s side. Justice Clarence Thomas questioned whether Kennedy’s prayer could be viewed as government speech if the school district strongly and publicly opposed it.
Justice Elena Kagan raised the issue of possible coercion, as students had been joining Kennedy for the prayer. A lower court opinion noted that the principal had been contacted by a parent who said his son “felt compelled to participate” in the prayer des…