This week, the U.S. Supreme Court decided two notable cases related to public education: Houston Community College System v. Wilson, pertaining to freedom of speech and workplace retaliation and Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, complicating the nation’s longstanding commitment to separation of church and state.
Board Trustee David Wilson sued the Houston Community College System (HCC) because he faced censure and sanctions following criticisms he raised towards other trustees. The Supreme Court delivered a unanimous decision in favor of HCC. The court held that elected bodies do not violate the first amendment when they censure their members.
In Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, the court ruled 6 to 3 in favor of Joseph Kennedy, a high school football coach who was fired for his conduct regarding post-game prayer at the 50-yard line. The court’s majority opinion, authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch, argues that Kennedy’s action is protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution. In dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued that Gorsuch’s argument “elevates one individual’s interest in personal religious exercise over society’s interest in protecting the separation between church and state, eroding the protections for religious liberty for all.”