Well, ain’t this America. Today SCOTUS will hear arguments in one of the stupidest religious rights cases in recent memory. A high school football coach from Bremerton, WA, Joseph Kennedy, insists that at the end of a game he has the right to kneel and say a prayer–with student players gathered around him–on the 50-yard line.
The school told him, “Dude, you can’t do that.” Coach Kennedy said, “Sure I can. I’m a veteran.” The school said, “Seriously, dude, you can’t. It’s a school event. It would be like the school’s endorsing your religion.” Coach said, “I got me the right to religion.” The school said, “Yeah, but not on the school’s dime. Besides, there are players on the team who don’t want to pray with you but feel pressured to do it anyway, and that ain’t right.” Coach said, “I’m being persecuted for being a Christian.” The school sighed and said, “No, you’re not. You can pray quietly all you want, but you can’t make a huge display of it, so just stop.” Coach said, “Nope, not gonna stop.” School said, “Sorry, coach, take a seat, you’re on leave.” Coach said, “I’ll sue.” School said, “Okay.”
And here we are. Every lower court agreed with the school, which was perfectly in keeping with precedent. But now we have TrumpScotus, which has shown little regard for legal precedent. So the coach may actually have a shot at getting approval for his performative aggressive Christianity.
As I’ve said many times before, I’m not a Christian. But I think as religions go, New Testament Christianity has some pretty solid ideas (but I have to say, Old Testament Christianity is pretty fucking scary). The problem isn’t Christianity. The problem is Christians who claim to practice Christianity but don’t. Coach Kennedy, for example. Here’s what the coach says:
“I fought and defended the Constitution, and the thought of leaving the field of battle where the guys just played and having to go and hide my faith because it was uncomfortable to somebody — that’s just not America.”
Dude, that’s totally America. First off, it’s a damned football game–a game, not the field of battle. Second, you don’t have to hide your faith, you just can’t make a public display of it while you’re acting as a representative of the school. Third, why do you want to make some folks uncomfortable? And fourth, the Bible its ownself says you shouldn’t be making a public display of your prayer.
That’s right. First book of the New Testament, Matthew basically tells folks not to be a dick about praying.
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
Okay, that’s the King James version. I prefer KJV on account of I like the way it rumbles. But all of the more modern versions say the same thing. Don’t be a hypocrite, pray quietly and privately. If there’s a god (okay, this is me speaking, not Matthew), they’ll hear you even if you’re not on the 50 yard line. Also? It’s shameful that a non-Christian has to remind Christians what the Bible says.
But this isn’t about the Bible. It’s about the law. It’s about the Constitution of the United States. And it’s about how Comrade Trump (with the willing help of the GOP Senate) damaged SCOTUS by seating Justices who casually ignore precedent when they disagree with it. In any ordinary SCOTUS, this case wouldn’t merit an argument; with TrumpSCOTUS, it may actually prevail.