On March 31, Kaplan Hecker & Fink attorneys filed an amicus brief at the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf Church-State Scholars in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. Our brief in support of the respondent school district urges the Court to hold true to its school prayer precedents by affirming a well-reasoned lower court decision. As the brief explains, if a public high school football coach “can hold habitual, audible, public prayer on the football field with students right after games—making overt sectarian religious declarations to a circle of kneeling students while performing his official duties as a coach in full view of the school community—then disturbingly little remains of [the] Court’s precedents.”
Drawing on a range of constitutional precedents, our amicus brief identifies three key principles supporting the Court’s school prayer jurisprudence: “First, to protect students’ freedom of conscience and religious liberty, the Constitution prohibits even subtle religious compulsion by school officials—and it firmly rejects the notion that students should be forced to suffer and sacrifice to resist such compulsion. Second, this understanding is reinforced by the Constitution’s commitment to a norm of religious equality, which exists to avoid religious discord and discrimination, and which is violated when public school employees put students to a divisive choice between conformance and exclusion. Finally, in applying these principles, the Court has recognized the need for enhanced vigilance at public schools, given the special role that schools play in shaping the citizenry and given that children are uniquely vulnerable to religious pressure by officials, teachers, and coaches.
This amicus brief reflects Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP’s continued commitment to advocating religious freedom and equality for people of all faiths (and none) in our public institutions.