Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case that will decide if Americans have the right to express their religion freely, as it considers the case of Joe Kennedy, a high school football coach and veteran of the United States Marine Corps.
As part of his gameday routine, Coach Kennedy silently kneeled in prayer at the 50-yard line following each football game in thanks to God for what his players were able to accomplish. For exercising his constitutional right to express his religious convictions freely, Kennedy was barred from coaching in 2015 and later fired by Washington state’s Bremerton School District.
The America First Policy Institute’s Constitutional Litigation Partnership was proud to file an amicus curiae with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Coach Kennedy’s appeal and the Constitutional right of all Americans to express their deeply-held religious convictions.
No American should be forced to choose between their faith and their livelihood.
Religious liberty, one of the core freedoms that drove our Founders to the New World and a cherished freedom the U.S. has singularly defended throughout our history, must be defended at all costs.
Since the country’s founding, our Constitution has protected public expressions of faith, including the invocation of God at the opening of sessions of the Supreme Court, as Justice Antonin Scalia highlighted in McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” the First Amendment states.
The oath of office, traditionally recited by every federal official upon assuming office, swears allegiance to upholding our Constitution while citing faith with the final words, “so help me God.” Former Presidents George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant even symbolically kissed the Bible after taking their oaths.
America also has a longstanding tradition of religious expression in sports, which has richly contributed to our nation’s heritage.
For example, football’s rise to prominence within the Ivy League in the 1880s originally fostered a strong association between Christian virtue and athletics in general, characterized by “fair play, respect (both for oneself and others), strength (physical and emotional), perseverance, deference, subordination, obedience, discipline, loyalty, cooperation, self-control, self-sacrifice [and], endurance.”
Later, in the 1950s and 1960s, athletic ministries such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Athletes in Action rose to national prominence due to their commitment to the expression of faith in collegiate and professional sports.
Even in our era, hardly an event passes without the expression of an athlete’s religious beliefs on the field of competition. Football receivers often point up to the Heavens after making a touchdown reception. Batters approach home plate and often kiss a gold cross or make the sign of the cross on the plate before taking their stance in the batter’s box.
Quarterback Tim Tebow famously wrote Bible verse John 3:16 under his eyes for the highly televised NCAA National Championship game in 2009 and frequently knelt in silent prayer after scoring a touchdown.
Sadly, religious liberty is under assault in the West as censorship has parasitically spread. Courts around the world have been weaponized against faith leaders and citizens alike for practicing their faith. Western democracies such as Finland and Canada, the same nations that have shined as global refuges for religious freedom and human rights, now imprison their own citizens for exercising their religious convictions. America cannot follow suit.
Our great Nation was founded on the sacred right of every American to practice his or her faith in peace without fear of retribution, repression, or retaliation by any cultural movement or government officials seeking to coerce compliance against personal religious conscience. Coach Kennedy’s case serves as a reminder to us all of the fragility of our liberties — especially religious liberty.
America must fight to maintain the freedom of religious expression and ensure we will always remain a haven for all to exercise their faith free of government oppression and undue prohibition.
Our Constitution grants citizens the freedom of religious liberty — on and off the field.
Pastor Paula White-Cain is the president of Paula White Ministries and is the senior pastor of City of Destiny Church. She hosts the Christian television program Paula Today. Pam Bondi is the former Florida attorney general.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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