The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has only a glancing acquaintance with the Constitution, continues to strangle the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion. This time they went after Joe Kennedy, an assistant football coach in Bremerton, Washington, who for years knelt at midfield after each game to offer a silent and brief prayer for the privilege of coaching and working with fine young men.
Well, the 9th Circuit, which has never seen an expression of religious freedom it did not find personally offensive, ruled that the school district was right to terminate Coach Kennedy with extreme prejudice on the grounds that, even though nobody could hear him pray, people could see him out there and could probably figure out what he was doing. According to these benighted judges, it is now considered a criminal offense to exercise a constitutional right anywhere somebody might possibly see you do it.
This is obviously absurd. It’s like saying you have the right to freedom of speech as long as nobody hears you talk, the right to freedom of the press as long as nobody has the chance to read what you write, and the right to peaceably assemble as long as you do it where nobody could possibly notice you.
Now, if we were still using the Constitution as given to us by the Founders, instead of the one folded, bent, mutilated, and spindled by judicial tyrants, it would simply be impossible for a coach to violate the First Amendment for the simple reason that a coach is not Congress.
The First Amendment, as its first word makes clear, was intended by the Founders to serve only as a restraint on Congress, and by extension, the federal government. “Congress shall make no law...” And since the First Amendment has never been amended (Congress tried and failed in 1875) it still means today exactly what it meant in 1791.Since Coach Kennedy isn’t Congress, he couldn’t violate the First Amendment even if he set out to do it, since it wasn’t written to restrain him.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The First Amendment was written to restrain the federal government and to protect Coach Kennedy from the out of control jurists on the federal bench, which the First Amendment quite pointedly binds down with chains.
The federal government, which includes the judiciary, is flatly forbidden by the First Amendment to restrict the free exercise of religion in any way. (Under the Founders’ Constitution, regulating religious expression is entirely a matter for state governments.) But prohibiting Joe Kennedy’s free exercise of religion is exactly what the 9th Circuit has done. They have, without any warrant or justification whatsoever, taken the chains of the Constitution off their own necks, where the Founders placed it, and wrapped it around Joe Kennedy’s head. A more egregious trampling of the Constitution would be hard to imagine.
Franklin Graham issued an appeal to every high school football coach in America on his Facebook page earlier this week. Here is how it reads (emphasis mine):
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that coaches can’t pray or make religious gestures on the field after a game. These progressive activist judges have gone too far.
At next Friday night’s game, on September 1, I think it would be great if football coaches across the country went out on the field wherever they are and prayed. And those there to watch the game stand in prayer with them. Let’s show our support for Coach Kennedy, a former Marine who didn’t back down on prayer. Will you spread the word to a coach you know?
Email this column to every high school football coach you know, or print it out and hand it to them to read before Friday night. The goal here is to have football coaches all across America exercise their right to religious liberty by praying on their football field just as Coach Kennedy prayed on his, not ostentatiously but quietly and without apology.
In the classic 1960 movie, Kirk Douglas plays the role of Spartacus, a slave among slaves who leads a revolt against their tyrannical Roman overlords. Finally he and his men are trapped between two sizeable Roman armies. The Roman general, Crassus, offers Spartacus’ men their lives in exchange for identifying and handing over their leader to be crucified. But Spartacus, not wanting his men to die on his account, stands to his feet and loudly proclaims, “I’m Spartacus.” Immediately the slave to his right leaps to his feet and yells at top volume, “I’m Spartacus.” One after another, all of Spartacus’ men rise to their feet and with the declaration, “I’m Spartacus” on their lips.
Well, it’s time for another “I am Spartacus” moment this Friday night on football fields from one American coast to the other. Get Franklin Graham’s appeal to every Christian high school football coach you know, and then be prepared to rise to your feet in the stands as your coach takes a knee on the field.
This will not be “civil disobedience,” as some have charged. Civil disobedience involves refusing to obey a bad law. But judges, under the Founders’ Constitution, have no authority to make law at all, since, according to Article I, all legislative power belongs to Congress and Congress alone.
In actuality, it is the judges of the 9th Circuit who are guilty of flagrant civil disobedience by ignoring the plain meaning of the Constitution they took a sacred oath to uphold. No, it will not be civil disobedience but constitutional obedience on the part of these coaches. If anyone challenges them, all they need to do is to present a copy of the First Amendment and its guarantee of the right to the free exercise of religion which, however you interpret it, must include the Christian religion.
The First Amendment is the only prayer permit they need.