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Jefferson County reviews high school football coach prayer ruling from Supreme Court

AL.com logo AL.com 6/27/2022 Greg Garrison, al.com

Jefferson County Superintendent Dr. Walter Gonsoulin has released a statement noting his support for high school football coach Joseph Kennedy, whose right to lead on-field prayer in Washington state was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.

“The Jefferson County Board of Education previously approved a resolution in support of Coach Kennedy and the voluntary expression of religious viewpoints,” Gonsoulin said. “As we have stated this board of education and the superintendent fully supports the right of students and all members of the education community to pray and engage in voluntary religious expression in school settings. We are grateful to the court for its ruling in this case.”

The case forced the justices to wrestle with how to balance the religious and free speech rights of teachers and coaches with the rights of students not to feel pressured into participating in religious practices. The outcome could strengthen the acceptability of some religious practices in the public school setting.

In April, the Freedom from Religion Foundation released a letter it received from the Jefferson County Board of Education’s attorney agreeing to stop the practice of the public address system being used to lead prayers over loudspeakers before high school football games.

Gonsoulin later emphasized that “voluntary” prayer is still allowed.

On April 28, the board passed a resolution in support of voluntary expression of religious viewpoints.

In his statement Monday, Gonsoulin indicated the Supreme Court decision will be studied as it relates to practices at high school football games.

“Our legal team is currently reviewing the ruling to understand its full scope,” he said.

See also: Jefferson County superintendent reaffirms ‘voluntary’ school prayer

Jefferson County schools agree to stop prayers over PA at football games after complaints at Gardendale, Pinson

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