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Pray to play — Supreme Court sides with Bremerton football coach: Today So Far

  • Supreme Court sides with Bremerton's praying football coach.
  • What's up with the weather?
  • Washington aims to further protect abortion rights.

This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for June 27, 2022.

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Another U.S. Supreme Court decision on a local case is likely to cause some friction. I think I hear some Satanists getting ready for a demonstration...

After losing his case in lower courts, Bremerton Assistant Coach Joe Kennedy was victorious at the Supreme Court which has decided in his favor 6-3.

You may recall back in 2015, Coach Kennedy refused to stop praying on the 50 yard line at the end of every football game. The school district fired him for it, arguing that as a public employee he was crossing a line that kept government and religion separate. The district worried that his prayers would be considered an endorsement of a religion. The Supreme Court disagreed and said that Kennedy's actions were individual and personal.

RELATED: What does Kennedy v. Bremerton SD mean for how schools handle religious speech?

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the dissenting opinion and said the majority ignored the fact that Kennedy was often joined by students and players in prayer, and that he incorporated his religion in his football speeches. Kennedy has always argued that he never required players to pray with him — it was their personal choice.

Just like it is the choice of anyone under the thumb of an influential authority. It's a choice for children to be good for Santa Claus. It's a choice to pretend to like sports to suck up to your company's management. It's a choice to compliment a police officer who is deciding whether or not to give you a speeding ticket.

And it's my personal choice to get KUOW News Director Gigi Douban her morning latte each day, ensuring that it is exactly 112 degrees when it reaches her hand. And when she throws it on the ground because it mistakenly had soy milk instead of oat milk, it is my choice to race five blocks away to get her a replacement ASAP.

It's on the record that when Kennedy performed his post-game prayers, some students felt compelled to join despite not being religious. Court documents state that some felt that if they didn't pray, they wouldn't get to play. That is the influence of a coach, in this case, a coach taking a public employee paycheck, performing public employee duties. So like I said, this decision is going to cause some friction.

Which brings me back to the Satanists. When Coach Kennedy made headlines in 2015, a local congregation of Satanists demanded equal time on the field. They got it. No word yet on if local Satan worshipers will have a response to the Supreme Court's latest decision.

Speaking of Satan, it's getting hot around here (sorry, I needed some transition). It seems that the wonderfully dim and cool June weather has burned off and warmer temps have finally arrived. Despite the recent 80s/90s, temperatures are expected to drop into the 60s/70s over the coming week. Maybe even the 60s, and maybe even some rain, but I don't want to get my hopes up so let's move on.

This is probably a good time to remind everyone that despite the hot weather outside, the water that feeds our lakes and rivers is basically ice water — it comes from snowpack. The warm weather is a bit of an illusion when it comes to bodies of water, which are still cold enough to give a person hypothermia. So this is your reminder.

As for that other controversial Supreme Court ruling, Washington is taking steps to ensure abortion rights are protected locally. Abortion bans have already started in some states. Others are on the way. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said this weekend that he is seeking to further solidify abortion rights by adding the issue to the state constitution. Inslee is also ordering the state patrol to not participate with any investigation by out-of-state agencies regarding abortions in Washington. This way, if someone from another state comes to Washington for a medical procedure, the other state won't have our help investigating them.

Riley Keene with the Northwest Abortion Access Fund (NWAAF) tells KUOW that rights are safe in Washington and Oregon. Neighboring Idaho, not so much. Keene says that calls to the NWAAF have shot up and remained high after Texas started its ban. It's speculative at this point, but Keene says that NWAAF is expecting calls to rise from every state with a ban. And that means state's like Washington could have a lot of people coming for local medical services.

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caption: Carol Dole (right) of Jackson Park and Rebecca Dietz (left) of Wedgewood demonstrate their reaction to the Supreme Court decision Friday overturning Roe v. Wade.
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Carol Dole (right) of Jackson Park and Rebecca Dietz (left) of Wedgewood demonstrate their reaction to the Supreme Court decision Friday overturning Roe v. Wade.
Photo by Joshua McNichols / KUOW

Carol Dole (right) of Jackson Park and Rebecca Dietz (left) of Wedgwood demonstrate their reaction to the Supreme Court decision Friday overturning Roe v. Wade. Read more of Seattleites response to the Supreme Court decision here. (Joshua McNichols / KUOW)


News of the Supreme Court's decision on the Bremerton football coach who prayed with students is likely going to bring up the Constitution's "Establishment Clause." What exactly is that?

The Establishment Clause is part of the First Amendment. It basically states that the government cannot establish a religion (or favor one over another). It also stops influence from going the other way — a religion cannot enforce beliefs on others via the law. Ya know, that freedom thing that we always talk about.

There are some gray areas, of course.

This is where we get that classic phrase, "a wall of separation between church and state." That line is not in the Constitution, rather, Thomas Jefferson wrote it to explain the concept in the Constitution. It has been referenced in past Supreme Court decisions when it comes to the lines between religion and government. The concept goes back to Jefferson's days as a Virginia lawmaker. The Church of England was once the official religion of the Virginia colony (there were other official religions in other colonies, such as the settlements that began with Puritans). Jefferson's "Statute of Religious Freedom" removed the "official" status of the Church of England, and stated that people can choose to believe and worship as they like. It also stated, "That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions, which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical."


caption: The <em>Peanuts</em> characters reminded readers of the importance of Title IX at a moment when many schools and athletic programs were resistant to it.
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The Peanuts characters reminded readers of the importance of Title IX at a moment when many schools and athletic programs were resistant to it.
Peanuts © 1979 Peanuts Worldwide LLC

'Peanuts,' one of the world's most popular cartoons, pushed for Title IX in the 1970s

Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, passionately believed in girls' and women's sports. Arguably the most popular cartoonist of his day, he used his platform to promote Title IX, with characters such as Lucy, Marcie and Peppermint Patty cheering on the legislation - and top women athletes of the era.

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