Supreme Court rules that high school coach can pray on field

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Supreme Court rules that high school coach can pray on field

June 28, 2022 - Dr. Jim Denison

Joe Kennedy, a former assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Wash., poses for a photo March 9, 2022, at the school's football field. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Joe Kennedy, a former assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Wash., poses for a photo March 9, 2022, at the school's football field. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The Supreme Court ruled six-to-three yesterday that a school district cannot bar a football coach from publicly exercising his faith on the field after the game. Writing for the Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch said coach Joe Kennedy’s prayers were private speech that could not be construed as representing the school district and were thus protected by the First Amendment.

The other side had argued that public devotions by a football coach could be seen as coercive, particularly to the players, since they depend on his approval on matters ranging from playing time on the field to college recommendations. However, Justice Gorsuch wrote that such students should consider the coach’s prayers a lesson for “learning how to tolerate speech or prayer of all kinds” as “part of learning how to live in a pluralistic society.”

An attorney with First Liberty successfully argued the case before the Court. After the ruling, First Liberty President, CEO, and Chief Counsel Kelly Shackelford stated, “Our Constitution protects the right of every American to engage in private religious expression, including praying in public, without fear of getting fired. We are grateful that the Supreme Court recognized what the Constitution and law have always said—Americans are free to live out their faith in public” (my emphasis).

Whether we will or not is the question.

Alligator kills a man in South Carolina

Forty-six migrants were found dead in the back of a tractor trailer in San Antonio yesterday evening; sixteen others were taken to local hospitals with heat-related injuries. Three people were killed and at least fifty were injured when an Amtrak train derailed in Missouri yesterday after striking a dump truck.

In other news, at least twelve people died and 251 were injured in a chlorine gas leak at Jordan’s Aqaba port. An eleven-foot-long alligator killed a man in a Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, yacht club community. And a five-month-old girl was shot to death while in the rear of a car in a Chicago neighborhood.

When tragedies like these occur, they immediately make the news because they strike a chord deep within us. This is because we innately know that human life is innately valuable. This explains why the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s has led to the nearly unanimous condemnation of slavery, white supremacy, and racial discrimination today, while the abortion movement has been deeply divisive from 1973 to today.

However, the sanctity of every human life stands on a prior foundation that has been under attack for decades.

The Judeo-Christian tradition has held since its inception that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). If Western society continues to reject the biblical worldview upon which our culture was built, we will lose the mortar that holds us together. And we will forfeit all that God can give only to those who live by his word and will.

Dr. Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence, Surgeon General of the Continental Army, and ratifier of the US Constitution, observed: “By renouncing the Bible, philosophers swing from their moorings upon all moral subjects. . . . It is the only correct map of the human heart that ever has been published.”

If you had the cure for all cancer

This is why living out our faith in public is not only our right but also our responsibility. We know the answers to the deepest questions of the human heart. We have experienced the “antidote” to the pandemic of sin, the only hope for eternal life beyond this life. Like Paul, we are therefore “under obligation” to pay forward the grace we have received (Romans 1:14).

We must never allow our skeptical, secularized culture to persuade us that sharing and standing for our faith is an imposition of our values on others. To the contrary, such bold witness is the most compassionate way we can love our neighbor as ourselves.

If you had the cure for all cancer, would sharing it with the world be an imposition or a gift?

However, it is vital that we live out our faith in public in ways that are compelling and attractive to the public. For example, while pro-abortion activists are lambasting the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Anglican priest and New York Times opinion writer Tish Harrison Warren has published a brilliantly reasoned article defending the biblical sanctity of life.

Ukrainian officials are reporting that two Russian missiles slammed into a crowded shopping mall in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk yesterday; at this hour, at least eighteen are dead and fifty-eight are wounded. Meanwhile, Christians fleeing the Russian advance in Ukraine are ministering to other refugees with practical compassion and courageous grace.

“The duty of the present moment”

Paul told the Corinthians, “A wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:9). Wide translates the Greek mega, “great.” Effective work translates energes, meaning “active, powerful, strong.”

At the very same time this great opportunity for the gospel has been “opened” to the apostle, “there are many adversaries.” Commentator David Garland notes, “The gospel always meets with resistance because it topples all persons from their thrones, great and small, and it is no surprise that many adversaries rise up in resistance.”

Paul’s story is our story. The digital era presents a “wide door” unprecedented in human history for living out our faith in public. However, this platform is equally available to “adversaries” of the gospel.

If we will submit our day and influence to God’s Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), we will be empowered to stand publicly and persuasively for God’s word and will. Our faithfulness will mark lives for eternity, whether we know it at the time or not. As Oswald Chambers noted, “When we choose deliberately to obey God, then he will tax the remotest star and the last grain of sand to assist us.”

In Abandonment to Divine Providence, the French Jesuit Jean-Pierre de Caussade (1675–1751) wrote: “We find all that is necessary in the present moment. If we have abandoned ourselves to God, there is only one rule for us: the duty of the present moment.”

Have you abandoned yourself to God yet today?

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