Supreme Court rejects appeal, for now, of high school coach fired for praying on field

The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a petition from a Seattle-area high school football coach who was fired for refusing to stop leading prayers on the field after games.

Former Bremerton High School Coach Joe Kennedy, after his firing, had filed a First Amendment suit against his former school district -- with the issue being whether public employees retain free speech rights when at work and “in the general presence of” students.

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But while conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas said they are interested in his case and the legal issues it raises, they agreed that the court is right to reject the appeal for the time being.

Lower courts had said that Kennedy was not immediately entitled to get his job back, rejecting his claim that the school district violated his free speech rights by putting him on paid leave after he continued to pray.

According to The Washington Examiner, lower courts had found that his action of praying with athletes at the 50-yard line could "promote disunity along religious lines and risks alienating valued community members from an environment that must be open and welcoming to all."

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Kennedy disagreed with that court finding when he spoke on Fox News in 2017: "That was never an issue, if the kids wanted to come up they did, if they didn't, if they didn't. These are smart kids, and they don't fell left out of anything, they were part of our team and I was just honored to serve them."

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Alito reportedly called the lower court’s reasoning “highly tendentious” and said more facts were needed for the Supreme Court to consider the issues -- particularly whether he was pushed out because he was perceived to be neglecting his duties or because he allegedly made it appear the district endorsed his beliefs.

Fox News' Bill Mears and The Associated Press contributed to this report.