Advancing American Freedom (AAF) founder Mike Pence announced the filing of a merits amicus brief by AAF, Young America’s Foundation (YAF), and 42 additional organizations and individuals in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District at the Supreme Court of the United States. AAF previously filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to hear the case, and the Court agreed to hear the case earlier this year.
In its amicus brief, AAF argues that brief prayers of personal thanks are protected by the First Amendment and that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling will severely curtail the private religious speech and freedom of public officials.
“Americans of faith do not turn their devotion off and on like a light switch, and we must reject any attempt by the government to control private religious expression—especially those who call on their faith when answering the call to participate in public service,” said AAF founder Mike Pence. “Advancing American Freedom will always stand up to unconstitutional restrictions on personal religious freedom and the free exercise of religion that are the lifeblood of our Republic.”
“Religious freedom is one of the most fundamental rights endowed to us by our Creator,” said YAF President Governor Scott Walker. “As First Amendment rights become increasingly under attack in America’s schools, Young America’s Foundation is proud to stand with Advancing American Freedom in urging the court to recognize and fight for these freedoms we hold dear.”
AAF argues that under the Ninth Circuit’s analysis “[n]early all public employees would lose their right to engage in brief, silent prayer and other religious expression.” And that “any visible practice of personal faith that occurs on duty and in the workplace is subject to government control. Public employees cannot escape or avoid this all-encompassing conception of government speech. No matter how personal or private, if speech or expression occurs in the presence of other individuals at the workplace during duty hours, in the conception of the Ninth Circuit, it is completely unprotected under the First Amendment.”
According to the amicus brief, scenarios that are commonly understood as protected by the First Amendment would be prohibited under the Ninth Circuit’s reasoning. These scenarios include but are not limited to: a teacher bowing her head in silent prayer of thanks while students are nearby before lunch in the school cafeteria, a civilian employee at the Pentagon keeping the Qur’an visibly on her desk so that she can read it during her personal time, and a teacher of Jewish faith wearing a yarmulke through the duration of each workday.
Additionally, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling would chill public employees from engaging in constitutionally protected acts of personal religious practice because individuals cannot reasonably be expected to interpret confusing and overbroad court opinions in order to determine if their personal religious practice would qualify as constitutionally protected.
As a result, AAF, YAF, and the co-signors ask the Supreme Court to “protect the ability of teachers and other government employees to express their protected First Amendment right to engage in private religious expression without fear of government retribution or Establishment Clause violation.”
Today’s amicus brief marks the sixth filed by AAF. Previous amici include Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Carson v. Makin, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, Shurtleff v. City of Boston, and National Federation of Independent Business v. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Please find a copy of the amicus brief HERE.