New York, NY, June 27, 2022 – Earlier this morning, the Supreme Court issued a decision in the matter of Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, in which the court ruled for a former high school football coach who lost his job after imposing postgame prayers on the team’s players. The American Jewish Congress is once again outraged by the court’s decision, which blurs a concrete line between the separation of Church and State. Just days after revoking protections for hundreds of millions of women once safeguarded by Roe V. Wade, the Supreme Court is again deciding to overturn decades of established precedent and set our country back.
Since our nation’s inception in 1776, the understanding that religious practice should not, and would not, be forced onto any man, woman, or child is one of the fundamental ideals that make the United States the land of the free. Thomas Jefferson, one of our nation’s most prized founding fathers, not to mention an exceptionally pious and religious man himself, noted that “Erecting the ‘wall of separation between church and state’… is absolutely essential in a free society.” His clear distinction between the separate nature of religious practices and societal undertakings has long guided a court in a number of Church and State decisions. Regrettably, today’s ruling displays that Jefferson’s initial understanding, coupled with what the majority of the country believes to be morally and ethically crucial, has been disregarded by the court.
For over 100 years, the American Jewish Congress has advocated for the religious freedoms of all who walk the earth and has fought to protect the Jewish and American principles that continue to rain so important in our everyday lives. In the Kennedy case, the idea of permitting a football coach, one who is employed by a public institution, to lead a team in prayer – fundamentally undermines the separation of religion and governance. To make matters clearer, should students have chosen not to exercise such prayer at the behest of their coach, they run the risk of punishment, and therefore, this allows religion to act as a primary vehicle where it has no place.
As Jews, we are familiar with having religious beliefs forced upon our communities and the consequences that have gravely unfolded as a result. The separation between religion and law cannot and should not be blurred. Today, however, that fear is once again at our forefront, and this decision will undoubtedly spread consequences far beyond free and acceptable expressions of faith. This case has set a precedent to spread into our classrooms, and our public institutions, and there is no question that today will forever go down as a dark day in history for the Court.
In the strongest possible terms, the American Jewish Congress condemns yet another of the High Court’s decisions, and while we respect the judicial authority afforded to the Justices, we urge Congress to take immediate action to remedy this pattern of historic misjudgments. To all that may be affected by today’s ruling, know this – our organization will forever fight to protect the rights and liberties of all who call this nation home; including their choice to practice their faith in privacy and peace, and above all else – never have any belief forced upon them, that isn’t their own.