WA school chief: students won’t be impacted by supreme court prayer decision

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The U.S. Supreme Court said on Monday that public school employees can engage in individual prayer during school activities in the state of Washington. This is as long as it’s not part of the employee’s responsibilities and there’s no explicit or implied expectation that others in the school, including students, join the prayer.

This comes from the Supreme Court’s decision earlier on Monday that ruled in favor of a high school football coach in Washington.

In the court case Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, Bremerton School District suspended Joe Kennedy for conducting prayers after high school football games.

Public school employees cannot use religious practices as a condition for playing, coaching, employment or participation.

“Individuals have always held express rights to exercise their own faith within reasonable limits in public spaces,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal said. “This ruling affirms that right, but it also retains the long-held understanding that church and state (public entities) are separate. Schools will not embrace a particular faith or compel any individual to participate or recognize any faith or religious practice.”

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and local school districts will investigate complaints of public school officials who use their authority or taxpayer resources to persuade students and other employees to participate in any form of religious expression.

“Washington state’s long history of civil rights and religious freedom will not be altered by this ruling,” Reykdal said. “Students and staff will remain free of any sanctioned religious beliefs or practices in the course of their public education.”

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