The constitutional principle of separation of church and state isn’t really that complicated: Americans are free to express their religious beliefs. But an instrument of government — like, say, a public employee on a high school football field — cannot be commandeered to promote that expression. And public school kids certainly cannot be pressured, even implicitly, to engage in prayer at a school event.
And yet, the case of a public high school coach who refused to stop leading players in prayer on the field immediately after games is now before the Supreme Court. Given the court’s rightward lean today, many believe justices might weaken the wall between government and religion. That would be a dangerous slippery slope for believers and non-believers alike.
The story of Joseph Kennedy, a former high school assistant football coach in Bremerton, Washington, represents the latest bid to breach that wall. Kennedy, a Christian, began going out on the field at the end of each game, dropping to one knee at the 50-yard line and saying a short prayer alone.