EDITORIAL/New Day, New Court: Voluntary high school prayer might be given new life

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear agurments in a case that is attracting a lot of interest from Christians across the country.

Especially since it could mean the reversal of a trend many decry as hostility to the First Amendment guarantee for religious freedom.

Back in 2015, high school football coach Joseph Kennedy and the administration of Bremerton High School in Washington came into conflict after a complaint was filed about Kennedy's practice of kneeling in prayer at the 50-yard line after games.

He had been doing it for several years. Some students chose to joined him -- even from the opposing team. Others did not.

Well, some parents thought even a voluntary prayer led by a school staffer was effectively coercive. The school administration told Kennedy he could pray in private, but not n school property in public.

After some wrangling, the coach was suspended and then either resigned or was fired -- accounts vary. He took his case to court.

The school has won every round so far. And back in 2001 the nation's highest court that a Texas school allowing voluntary, student-initiated and student-led prayer at football games was coercive and an unacceptable violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Claude.

But this is 2022 and a different Supreme Court. The conservatives hold a 6-3 majority on the court and that could make all the difference.

We shall see. But it's interesting to note that just a few days from now, on the first Thursday in May, the National Day of Prayer will be recognized.

It dates from 1952 when President Harry Truman signed a joint resolution of Congress to "set aside and proclaim a suitable day each year, other than a Sunday, as a National Day of Prayer, on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation." Every president since then has issued a National Day or Prayer proclamation.

It's been in court, too. And in 2011 the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a challenge to the National Day of Prayer, ruling the annual presidential proclamation is a request, not an order, and is not coercive.

"The President is free to make appeals to the public based on many kinds of grounds, including political and religious, and that such requests do not obligate citizens to comply and do not encroach on citizens' rights," the court ruled, adding "A feeling of alienation cannot suffice as injury."

Makes sense to us, whether from the White House or on a high school football field.

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