In oral arguments this morning, Supreme Court Conservatives appeared to side with a Bremerton, WA football coach who lost his job after insisting on praying at the 50-yard line despite the school’s efforts to stop him.

After nearly two hours of argument, the majority seemed prepared to rule the coach, Joseph Kennedy, was exercising his private religious views and not breaching the Constitutional wall between church and state.

The case is complicated by two sets of facts.

Kennedy says he was praying quietly, while the Bremerton high school district says he made a “spectacle of himself” at the 9th-yard line and implicitly coerced his team to pray with him.

NBC News reported, “Kennedy became an assistant varsity coach at Bremerton High School in 2008 and later began offering a brief prayer on the field after games ended and the players and coaches met midfield to shake hands.

“The school district eventually told him he should find a private location for praying, but he declined and continued his practice of dropping to one knee and praying silently on the 50-yard line.

“…The school district said his prayer was anything but private. He announced his plans to continue praying and invited journalists and a state legislator to watch. The district gave him a poor performance evaluation, and he did not apply to renew his contract after the2015 football season,” NBC reported.

“He chose to publicize his prayer, and he got down on one knee on the 50-yard line,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor told the Court.

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. asked whether Kennedy could have prayed aloud while standing with his arms outstretched.

Justice Samuel Alito Jr. asked whether Kennedy would have been fired for protesting the invasion of Ukraine, climate change, or racial injustice.

Attorneys for the school district failed to argue that protesting the invasion of Ukraine, climate change, or racial injustice is not an exercise in religious freedom.

Justices Question 9th Circuit Decision

“The tenor of the questioning from the court’s conservative members was unsurprising,” The New York Times Adam Liptak reported, as four of them had issued a statement questioning a preliminary ruling in favor of the [school] officials from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco.

“The Ninth Circuit’s understanding of the free speech rights of public-school teachers is troubling and may justify review in the future,” Justice Alito wrote at the time. Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas joined him,” Liptak reported.

The case is Kennedy v. Bremerton School District.

The First Amendment case is based on the historic 1962 Supreme Court case Engel v. Vitale, prohibiting teachers from starting class with The Lord’s Prayer, even before pupils stood and recited the Pledge of Allegiance.