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As a Supreme Court case involving a former Washington high school football coach and religious liberty awaits its fate, Sports Illustrated came under fire Monday for a tweet about the situation.
The sports magazine tweeted its daily cover featuring former Bremerton High School Joseph Kennedy kneeling in front of the Supreme Court.
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“SCOTUS will soon rule on the case of a public school football coach who wants to pray on-field after games,” the tweet read. “@GregBishopSI on Joe Kennedy, the machine backing him and the expected result: a win for Kennedy and an erosion of a bedrock of American democracy.”
Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-N.M., was among the Twitter users who took issue with the tweet.
“Sports Illustrated seems to be under the impression that coaches and players praying on the field spells the end of American democracy,” Herrell wrote. “If that were true, American democracy would have been destroyed long before the legendary Jim Thorpe threw his first pigskin.”
The congresswoman wasn’t the only one who responded to the tweet. Sen. Tom Cotton, R- Ark., and former NFL kicker Jay Feely were also among those who took issue with the opinion piece.
The Supreme Court will decide whether the school district properly suspended Kennedy from his job at Bremerton High School after he refused to stop praying on the field at the end of games.
The nine justices will weigh whether a public school employee who says he is praying by himself while at school and visible to students engaging in “government speech” that lacks any First Amendment protection.
FLASHBACK: SUPREME COURT TO HEAR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY DISPUTE OVER HIGH SCHOOL COACH’S ON-FIELD PRAYERS
The school district argued the act wasn’t a private moment of self-reflection and it continually involved public prayers with students, some of whom felt pressured to join the display.
Kennedy is an 18-year Marine veteran, who also worked at the local naval shipyard in Bremerton, about 20 miles west of Seattle across the Puget Sound. He returned to Bremerton as an assistant varsity coach in 2008.
Lower courts have all ruled for the school. The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals concluded that by kneeling and praying in view of students and parents, Kennedy “spoke as a public employee, not as a private citizen, and his speech therefore was constitutionally unprotected.”
The Supreme Court initially refused to get involved in 2019, instead ordering a federal appeals court to take a second look at the issues presented. But four conservative justices warned at the time, that appeals court’s “understanding of the free speech rights of public school teachers is troubling and may justify review in the future.” Joining Justice Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas at the time were Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, two of President Trump’s appointees.
Fast-forward three years, and with a fortified 6-3 conservative majority, the high court may now be poised to rule for Kennedy.
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A ruling was expected at some point this month.
Fox News’ Shannon Bream and Bill Mears contributed to this report.