The Satanic Temple of Seattle has requested permission to lead a satanic invocation on the field after a high school football game, all because an assistant coach refused to stop leading post-game midfield prayer sessions. If allowed, members of the group will wear ceremonial robes, carry an incense burner, and lead a seven-minute ceremony, including reading of a proclamation, punctuating the end of each sentence by banging a gong.
The Bremerton School District had warned Coach Joe Kennedy to stop leading public Christian prayers on the 50-yard line after games, but Kennedy pushed back, saying the prayers happen after the game, so at that point it is no longer an official school function. The school district isn't buying it and placed Kennedy on administrative leave.
Public School, Private Prayer
The issue of religious prayer in public schools has been fairly well settled as a matter of law: schools cannot stop students from praying in private, so long as the prayer is initiated and led by students, does not use school resources, and does not interfere with school functions. But, prayer in public schools cannot be perceived as school sponsored, or "bear the imprimatur" of the school.
As the school district so eloquently summarized when it suspended Kennedy: "Students can pray on their own; but it is a constitutional violation of students' rights for a District employee, acting as such, to initiate prayers with students." Nevertheless, Kennedy's disregard of constitutional law has garnered congressional support along with the services of "the nation's largest law firm dedicated to defending religious liberty" to aid in his defense.
According to Satanic Temple head Lilith Starr, a student at Bremerton High contacted her and asked to give an invocation after tonight's game against Sequim. Starr also said that members of the temple will attend the game, even if they are not given permission to be on the field afterwards.
Starr told the Kitsap Sun that the student "felt it wasn't right that only the Christian voice was being represented," and that Temple members "will most likely address the theme of justice and equal religious liberty for all."