(CNN) – Supreme Court justices on Monday readily put themselves in the shoes of a football coach who wanted to pray at midfield after a game, over those of students who might feel pressure to join him, in an expansive decision focused on the “suppression” of religious voices.
The 6-3 ruling against a Washington state school district that suspended coach Joseph Kennedy reinforces a modern court pattern favoring religious conservatives and a greater mingling of church and state.
Overall, the decision reflected the conservative majority’s view that the voices of religious believers are being squelched. Justice Neil Gorsuch, at the outset of his opinion for the court, raised concerns about “censorship and suppression.” Such fears of religion under siege have also emerged in prior decisions and in some justices’ off-bench speeches.
Monday’s ruling threatens a series of decisions back to 1962 that have forbidden official-sponsored school prayer. The ruling also comes less than a week after the same 6-3 ideologically split court declared that states subsidizing private education must include religious schools.
In both cases, the majority put an emphasis on the First Amendment’s “free exercise” guarantee and minimized its prohibition on government “establishment of religion.”
The court majority brushed aside the Bremerton School District’s assertion that letting Kennedy pray on the 50-yard line would lead observers to think the district had impermissibly endorsed religion or exposed student athletes to coercion.
Click here to read more.