The recent Supreme Court decision Kennedy v. Bremerton School District ruled in favor of Coach Joe Kennedy’s right to pray in public. It should encourage conservative Americans and also lead us to follow the example of a man who dared to pray on the 50-yard line.
Taking a Knee for God
Let’s begin with a short recap of his story for those who did not follow the drama.
Joe Kennedy spent 18 years of his life as a Marine before he took up the job as head coach for the Bremerton High School varsity football team in Bremerton, Washington. He made a promise to give thanks to God for what his players accomplished on the field, win or lose. It started as a private act but quickly got the attention of others. Players and students asked if they could join him.
Woke school authorities were not happy with the development. They told him to cease and desist, which he did. However, on the drive home after the next game, Kennedy felt bad because he had broken the promise he made to God.
He turned his car around and drove back to the field. After everyone left the stadium, he made his way to the 50-yard line. He then took a knee—not like Colin Kaepernick—but to give thanks to his Creator. Coach Kennedy then continued to the same practice at subsequent games, but only after players had left the field. Once again, however, he was joined by others.
He was eventually placed on paid administrative leave because he “engaged in overt, public and demonstrative religious conduct while still on duty as an assistant coach.” When fired for this action, millions of Americans took note. Indeed, the prayers of Coach Kennedy resonated with like-minded people around the world.
Why such drastic measures? It was not that he dared to pray in public, but it had an effect on others. Coach Kennedy’s case is important because he represented not just himself, but became an example for others.
He is not alone. There are many more Coach Kennedys, and many 50-yard lines in America today.
God Not Welcome on a University Campus
In 2016, Chike Uzuegbunam was a student at Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Unlike Kennedy, who was merely praying privately, Chike was openly proselytizing by handing out religious pamphlets and discussing God on campus.
School officials quickly informed the student that if he wanted to continue his conversations, he would have to reserve a spot in one of the school’s two “speech zones.” The Alliance Defence Freedom reports that “combined, the two spaces made up about 0.0015 percent of campus. If the entire campus were the size of a football field, these “speech zones”—the only places students could exercise their First Amendment rights—would be the “size of a piece of notebook paper.”
Chike complied with the secularist rules and reserved time in one of the “speech zones.” It was his version of praying on the 50-yard line. However, the police shut him down because someone complained. It appears the school’s Student Code of Conduct manual states a person’s “speech” can be suppressed if some “snowflake” does not like the message. This setback did not dissuade this principled student.
He filed a lawsuit against the school, which also went to the Supreme Court. The school was forced to amend its free speech policy and shell out $800,000 for the student’s legal fees.
These two cases show how Americans with deeply held religious convictions didn’t back down from the right to express them publicly. While these are high-profile cases, many other examples fly below the radar. One example is a 15-year-old young lady who was harassed on a plane because she was praying her rosary.
“No, I Won’t Stop Praying.”
Mariana had just attended the annual National Conference of American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) in Pennsylvania. On her flight home to Kansas, she decided to pray her rosary. The man next to her took offense. He was an atheist and had the audacity to demand she stop praying because he said, “It offends me.” This bully picked on the wrong person. Mariana had just been energized by the weekend conference and was not about to be pushed around.
“No, I won’t,” she responded. Then, like a spoiled child, the atheist pressed the call button. When the stewardess arrived, he asked her to make the young lady stop praying. We can only imagine this flight attendant’s surprise at the comical scene.
“I can’t do that,” the stewardess said, “she has the right to pray.” For the rest of the flight this nice young lady continued to pray on her “50-yard line,” much to the chagrin of the non-believer.
Indeed, TFP members and supporters commonly pray the rosary in public. They also say grace before and after meals in restaurants. People often thank us for being examples or even submit prayer requests.
“Could You Pray for me?”
Such a request happened to me in Florida’s Orlando International Airport. While waiting for some fellow TFP members to arrive, I decided to pray my rosary. Suddenly a woman tapped me on the arm and with a voice of anguish asked, “Could you please pray for me?”
She was traveling with her husband and was experiencing a five-hour flight delay. I noticed a profound sorrow. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she quickly added, “Could you also pray for my father? He just died.”
This very touching scene only happened because she could see I was praying and might provide needed help from above. I promised to pray for her father, and we parted ways.
These are but a few examples of Americans who are not afraid to profess their faith publicly, even when persecuted by non-believers. The case of Coach Kennedy is an example of the “Only in America” paradox which I have highlighted in articles over the years. It is a paradoxical case because most people would not expect such a reaction in a country whose current ruling party voted twice to remove the mention of God from its party platform. However, in this country that appears to be so unreligious, there are many people who are not ashamed of their belief in God.
Our country is going through great turmoil, and we need God’s help. Therefore, now is not the time to hide our Catholic Faith but to express it in public. We need to do like Coach Kennedy, even in the middle of a football field. Indeed, it is time for Americans to pray on the 50-yard line.
Photo Credit: © Mark Herreid – stock.adobe.com