The Supreme Court handed down a win for Christians on Monday, June 27, when they sided with a high school football coach who prayed at the 50-yard line following games. It’s a reminder that Christians should never be afraid to exercise their faith in public, but all too often, that is the opposite. Christians begin to view their faith as a “private” faith or not wanting to be “offensive” to someone else. However, that is not what Christ commands us to do as disciples of the Lord.
The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that high school football coach Joseph Kennedy, an assistant coach in Washington, had a constitutional right to pray following a football game. The coach did not force any players to join him, and, in fact, the issue exclusively focused on him praying alone on the 50-yard line. He was joined, however, voluntarily at times by students. Opponents of the coach said his actions pressured students to participate in religious activities, but the Supreme Court disagreed. The High Court declared it did not force students to participate or acknowledge any prayer since he was doing it privately and silently.
The same three justices who cast their vote against the coach also voted against the historic Roe v. Wade decision released this week. Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan voted against the coach and against overturning Roe v. Wade.
Coach Kennedy had been practicing the routine of praying after games for eight years before he found himself in court. The school board had asked him to stop praying on the field in 2015 and, after the school board declared he had not complied with their request to stop, they did not renew his contract for the following season. The Supreme Court agreed the school board violated his First Amendment rights when they terminated him.
There are times when we are commanded to pray privately, personally, and alone. This way of prayer is modeled to us by Christ who often went alone to pray. (Luke 6:12, Mark 6:46, Matthew 14:23. He commands us to do the same.
“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)
That, on the other hand, is not the exclusive manner of prayer for Christians. In I Timothy 2:8 we are told that in “every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.”
There are countless times throughout Sacred Scripture we, as disciples of Christ and children of God, are told to not be afraid. This command to “fear not” also applies to exercising our faith publicly. The Lord does not promise, on the other hand, we will not face consequences for public faith. He does, however, promise He will not abandon us.
“And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how or what you are to answer or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11-12)
When we exercise our faith publicly, we risk angering those who disagree. If we pray in public, there is a likelihood that we will offend someone who is atheist. It should not be fear that drives our decisions, however, because the Lord tells us that if we are to follow Him then we are to take up our cross. If it was popular to be a Christian, then there would be no fear of offending others. If it was popular to follow the Lord, Christ would never have been crucified and the disciples would not have been martyred.
We have the assurance the Lord is with us when we obey Him. Be faithful to the Lord and leave the results to Him.