Oklahoma Attorney Helped Represent Coach In SCOTUS School Prayer Case

Monday, June 27th 2022, 5:41 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court sided with a football coach in a case about prayer after high school football games.

An Oklahoma City lawyer was the originating attorney on the case, which has gone up and down the court system for about seven years.

In 2019, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case. That was before the conservative majority was put on the bench.

In a 6-to-3 ruling, the high court ruled in favor of former football coach Joe Kennedy, who lost his job at Bremerton High School in Washington state, after praying on the 50-yard-line after games.

“Everybody should be able to practice their faith,” Kennedy said April.

"There's nothing in the Constitution that says that anybody needs to pretend to be an atheist and ignore their religious faith,” A.J. Ferate said.

Ferate, an Oklahoma City attorney, said he is originally from Bremerton, and was the originating attorney on the case.

Ferate was present in the courtroom for arguments in April, but attorney Paul Clement and his team argued the case in the high court.

Kennedy’s lawyers argued no students were ever pressured to join him in prayer, and Justice Neil Gorsuch noted in his opinion there was no evidence of coercion.

"Those players made that choice for themselves to come out there,” Ferate said.

Ferate said Kennedy, who now lives in Florida, wants to move back to Washington, and return to his old job.

"Now we begin that process of working with the school district to see what sort of agreement we can come to, to put Joe back in place,” Ferate said.

The Bremerton School District's website said, "The District is assessing the decision and exactly what it means. We cannot confirm at this time whether Mr. Kennedy will be coaching in the fall."

Justice Sonya Sotomayor wrote the dissenting opinion, saying, "This decision does a disservice to schools and the young citizens they serve, as well as to our Nation’s longstanding commitment to the separation of church and state."

Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan joined her in dissent.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State said on its website, “The U.S. Supreme Court gutted decades of established law that protected students' religious freedom, undermining our country's foundational principle of church-state separation."