Ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton will inevitably harm Jewish and other minority-faith students
June 28, 2022, Washington, D.C.--- The JCRC of Greater Washington joins numerous other Jewish organizations in condemning the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday in Kennedy v. Bremerton. In ruling that a high school football coach who led on-field Christian prayers immediately after games had not violated the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, the Court has turned church-state jurisprudence on its head, leaving students of minority faiths (and of no faith) feeling unseen, unheard, and unprotected from the pressures of religious conformity and indoctrination.
As the leading agency representing Jewish students and employees in 10 school districts across the DMV, the JCRC knows all too well the harm caused when religious expression and promotion is effectively forced upon non-Christian students in school settings, where they are for all intents and purposes a captive audience. Each year our staff counsels and assists Jewish parents in our region whose children have been coerced to listen to or participate in school-sanctioned lessons and activities with religious content that marginalize and even proselytize to non-Christians. For years we have worked closely with school district superintendents and equity directors to create greater understanding among educators, not only about which activities and messaging are impermissible, but why they are problematic in public schools that are charged with educating, valuing, and respecting all children in our diverse society.
Yesterday's ruling undermines that work. We are gravely concerned that it will result in the impingement of the religious freedoms of minority-faith children, who will inevitably now be legally subjected to coerced indoctrination in publicly funded school and school-adjacent settings. Such an outcome distorts the long-established, delicate balance between the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment. We will be studying the details of this decision in the days and weeks to come, to better understand how it will impact the lives of Jewish and other minority-faith students and employees in real terms, and how we can work together with parents and school officials to ensure that Jewish students and employees can feel safe when they go to school and work each day.