Members of minority faith and belief communities have had mixed reactions to the recent Supreme Court ruling that the Constitution protected a high school football coach in Washington who prayed on the field after games.
Some worried that the High Court’s ruling might not necessarily include all walks of life, and others said it could lead to greater inclusion in the future.
“The law shouldn’t be our only guide,” said Elana Stein Hain, faculty director and senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute. “I think a broad sense of responsibility should guide how people will or will not act.”
Bremerton High School football coach Joseph Kennedy lost his job after the 2015 season as he continually knelt and prayed on the football field despite objections from the school district. The Supreme Court’s support for the football coach could have unforeseen long-term impacts on the public school arena, faith leaders have said.
While legal experts said the ruling could open the door to more religion in public schools – but warned teachers and coaches of interpreting freedom of speech and religion too broadly – people with beliefs and creeds that might face less tolerance in the public school realm accepted the door could be opened with the right intentions.
But the decision could also further complicate the situation for them.
Stein Hain said the debate among some groups within American Jewry is whether religious freedom in public spaces is better for the Jewish community as a minority because it gives them the right to freely exercise their faith. , or worse because allowing religion in public spaces when there is a clear majority further alienates minorities and puts pressure on children of minority faiths or beliefs. Both, she says, feel “legit.”
“That’s the big question,” Stein Hain said. “If you are from a religious minority, is it better to have a public space that is completely devoid of religion, or is it better to have a public space that allows for religious freedom where you can also compete in the marketplace? Realistically, you’re not going to be the loudest voice, but it might help you later when you want to do something publicly in a religious way.
She said it’s an “enigma”, but she is “sensitive” to the importance for people of the Jewish faith to be able to practice their religion in public and thinks it might be easier if it There was a concerted effort to make the space “a little more neutral”.
“I wouldn’t be shocked if in some places the way it ends is to start having this prayer and this prayer, and this prayer and this prayer, or – this is a big one I’ve seen – just having a moment of silence and make it ambiguous,” she said. “No one should own the space, just a moment of silence and everyone can fill it as they wish.
Jorie Jelinek is a former restaurant manager who turned to the nonprofit sector to work for the Chicago-based Academy of Urban School Leadership. She said she believed in freedom of speech and expression and thinks people should be able to practice what they believe in without imposing it on others, but said she was also “disappointed because there is no There’s no reason a teacher or coach can’t pray in their office or on the sidelines quietly for themselves.
“There are so many places where it won’t be noticed as public exposure,” said Jelinek, who is also a founding member and secretary of Chicago Humanists. “I also think if it was a different religion, if he put down a rug and headed to Mecca, let’s say, I don’t know if people would have taken it so kindly.”
Chicago Humanists is a chapter of the American Humanist Association, an organization for people who may identify as agnostics, freethinkers, atheists, or non-theists and who view science, logic, and reason as the primary source of decision-maker, Jelinek said.
She said it would be easier if religion was separated from schools. Public schools should be a place for everyone where education is promoted, she said, and where sports are played on a field where students learn to score and win alone or as a team, and “nothing it has nothing to do with religion.
“He could just as easily have made a small team group and had everyone pitch in and say, ‘Hey, we’re in this together, have a good game,'” a- she declared. “There are so many alternatives he could have done to bring people together and bring good team spirit and positivity to this group and alongside, if he wanted to take a personal moment for his own faith, it’s good.”
For Abdullah Antepli, a professor of religion and public policy at Duke University, there are three schools of thought: there are those who want Christian prayer in school and nothing else, which Antepli called of “hypocrisy,” people who want to ban all sorts of religious expression in schools, which he disagrees with, and a third option, which he says has worked his whole life.
Give space and space in the public school system to religious identities and commitments as long as they are not imposed on others, he said.
“Can a Muslim or a Hindu or a Jewish trainer, without imposing on anyone, can he or she or they take their religion in their own individual piety and practice in the public domain?” said Antepli, who is also a senior fellow on Jewish-Muslim relations and co-director of the Muslim Leadership Initiative at the Shalom Hartman Institute. “I think as a Muslim myself, this issue should be discussed a bit more seriously.”
He said he sees how the decision could be problematic “not because of the content, but because of its politics”, due to the “very obvious and very unstable Christian supremacy behind this decision”, but hopes for the same. liberties granted to Kennedy’s prayers. at the 50 meter line would also be given to anyone in the same spirit.
He is optimistic that the High Court’s decision will lead to “the renegotiation, reorganization, realignment of American secularism,” which he believes is necessary to determine what the rights set forth in the foundations of the United States mean today. United. The founding fathers, Antepli said, weren’t particularly very religious people, and they understood the shortcomings of French and British secularism and tried to “design a system that tries to protect religion from government, not religion.” ‘reverse”.
“So therefore they [the Founding Fathers] gave those religious freedoms religious freedom,” he said. “And at the time, there was only Christianity and Christian communities. So the same generosity and decency should be renegotiated and reinterpreted in America’s changing religious and spiritual landscape.