Football, Faith, and the First Amendment

January 31, 2019


A dispute over the firing of a high school football coach who refused to stop praying on the field after games reached the Supreme Court this term; last week, the justices said they would not hear the case until its facts were better established by lower courts. Justice Alito concurred but, joined by three other conservative justices, indicated that he might be sympathetic to Kennedy’s claim that his actions were protected by the First Amendment, should his case eventually return to the Court. Justice Alito also suggested that he and some of his colleagues may be willing to overturn Employment Division v. Smith in order to bolster free exercise and religious exemption claims under the First Amendment. Religion law experts Professor Stephanie Barclay of BYU Law School and Richard Katskee of Americans United for Separation of Church and State discuss Coach Kennedy’s case, whether Smith should be overturned, and how such changes might affect people like public school teachers and coaches. Jeffrey Rosen hosts.


An early transcript of the podcast is linked here. This text may not be in its final form, accuracy may vary, and it may be updated or revised in the future.


Stephanie Barclay is an associate professor at BYU Law School where she teaches the First Amendment, and is of counsel at Becket, an organization dedicated to defending the free exercise of religion. She has litigated numerous First Amendment cases at the trial and appellate level.

Richard Katskee is the legal director at Americans United for Separation of Church and State where he litigates First Amendment Amendment cases. He is also an adjunct professor at the American University Washington College of Law. Richard wrote an amicus brief on behalf of the Bremerton School District in the Ninth Circuit.

​​​​​​Jeffrey Rosen is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Constitution Center, the only institution in America chartered by Congress “to disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a nonpartisan basis.” 

Additional Resources

Our Interactive Constitution is the leading digital resource about the debates and text behind the greatest vision of human freedom in history, the U.S. Constitution. Here, scholars from across the legal and philosophical spectrum interact with each other to explore the meaning of each provision of our founding document. 

The Free Exercise Clause by Frederick Gedicks and Michael McConnell

This episode was engineered by Greg Scheckler and produced by Jackie McDermott. Research was provided by Lana Ulrich, Frank Cone, and Jackie McDermott.

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