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Press Release

Alaska Attorney General Joins Amicus Brief Supporting Bremerton High School Coach in Silent Prayer on Football Field

July 30, 2020

(Anchorage, AK) – Alaska Attorney General Kevin G. Clarkson joined a 21-state coalition of attorneys general led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, filing an amicus brief to the Ninth Circuit in Joseph A. Kennedy v. Bremerton School District.  This brief supports Coach Kennedy, a high school football coach, who was suspended because of his personal religious exercise - offering a short, silent prayer on the football field after each game.  The United States Supreme Court denied Coach Kennedy’s petition to hear his case, but noted, “The Ninth Circuit’s suggestion that even while off duty, a teacher or coach cannot engage in any outward manifestation of religious faith is remarkable.” 

In the amicus brief (192K PDF), Alaska and other states seek to protect the rights of public employees who “do not abandon their religious liberty at the doors of their workplaces.”  The brief argues that hostility to employees’ religious exercise offends the First Amendment just as much as public endorsement of religion would, and an appropriate balance requires accommodation of religious exercise. 

Attorney General Kevin G. Clarkson says, “Coach Kennedy hopes to honor his sincerely held beliefs by offering a short, silent prayer on the football field following each game.  There is no justification for the school district’s overbroad restriction on Coach Kennedy’s exercise of his First Amendment right.  Religious expression and public service can and must coexist.” 

Alaska joins the attorneys general from the following states in filing this amicus brief: Texas, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia.

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Department Media Contact:Assistant Attorney General Maria Bahr at (907) 269-5285 or maria.bahr@alaska.gov.