Conservative Justices Seek to Establish Religion as Legal Trump Card

For Immediate Release: January 22, 2019
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785

Center for Inquiry Statement on Kennedy vs. Bremerton School District

The Supreme Court refused to hear the case of a high school football coach who ignored directives not to hold public prayer sessions on the school field at games. Coach Joseph Kennedy was fired for his unwillingness to end the practice, and sued, all the way to the Supreme Court. The Court denied this request, but conservative Justice Alito, joined by Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh, wrote a deeply concerning statement.

In response, Nick Little, Vice President and Legal Counsel of the Center for Inquiry, said today:

“We welcome the refusal to grant an injunction to Mr. Kennedy. But we are extremely concerned by the willingness of Justice Alito, together with Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh to establish religion as a legal trump card that overrules all other interests. We also note with worry this group’s announced willingness to reexamine and overrule Supreme Court precedent that has long made clear that religion is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card which guarantees exemptions to all kinds of laws.”

Robyn Blumner, President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, said:

“This short yet deeply troubling opinion by four justices goes well down the road toward inviting teachers and coaches to lead prayers at public school events as an exercise of their constitutional rights. Sorry, Justice Alito, but a coach publicly praying on the 50-yard-line after a game is not a private act. It is not, as you suggest, like making a dinner reservation. To anyone with eyes and ears it is a government endorsement of religion”

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at