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June 14, 2022

The Praying Coach and the Idiocy of Sports Illustrated

A high school football coach lost his job for taking a knee in prayer, and a leftist magazine can’t believe he went to court over it.

There was a time when Sports Illustrated was relevant — a time when folks used to peruse its pages and read a piece by Rick Reilly or Frank Deford or Gary Smith during the 51 off-weeks between swimsuit issues.

Those days are gone, though, and yesterday the magazine reminded us why.

As the Supreme Court readies to announce its decision in a case involving a former Washington high school football coach, Joe Kennedy, and his exercise of religious liberty, Sports Illustrated took some righteous heat for a tweet that promoted its cover story on Kennedy — a tweet that was either ignorant or bigoted or both.

“SCOTUS will soon rule on the case of a public school football coach who wants to pray on-field after games,” began the tweet, innocently enough. But then it went off the rails: “Greg Bishop on Joe Kennedy, the machine backing him and the expected result: a win for Kennedy and an erosion of a bedrock of American democracy.”

At issue is the pending Supreme Court decision about whether the school district properly suspended Kennedy from his job at Bremerton High School after he refused to stop praying on the field at the end of games.

Here’s how Bishop describes Coach Kennedy in the article:

He’s a human embodiment of a country that’s deeply divided; a religious movement that’s surging with momentum, even as organized religion becomes increasingly less popular; and, most of all, a powerful right-wing machine many say is employing a timeless division tactic: us vs. them. All morphed a man’s unremarkable existence into an extraordinary one and imbued Kennedy with elusive, far-reaching purpose. He’s no longer just a man. He’s now a symbol, for what his supporters term ‘religious freedom.’ To them, he’s a hero, David slaying an anti-faith Goliath. To others, he’s a sledgehammer aimed at a bedrock of democracy: the separation of church and state.

That nefarious “right-wing machine” Bishop refers to is apparently the First Liberty Institute, which is the law firm representing Kennedy. First Liberty calls itself “the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious liberty for all Americans” and believes that “every American of any faith — or no faith at all — has a fundamental right to follow their conscience and live according to their beliefs.”

Apparently, this makes First Liberty a “powerful Christian conservative law firm” in Bishop’s eyes. Which prompts us to wonder: What parts of “all Americans … of any faith or no faith at all” does this left-wing machine journalist not understand?

Of course, we’re just scratching the surface of Bishop’s ignorance. How else to explain his belief that the nonexistent, nowhere-to-be-found-in-the-Declaration-of-Independence-or-the-Constitution “separation of church and state” is “a bedrock of democracy”? (It’s a republic, too, but whatever.)

And that’s the Left for ya: Take a throwaway line in an obscure letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists and turn it into the “bedrock of democracy.” As Jefferson himself put it:

I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

Notice how Jefferson quotes both sides of the First Amendment’s religious guarantee, rather than just cherry-picking the establishment clause. Ever wonder why “progressives” hate religion? It’s because progressivism seeks to replace faith in one’s religion with faith in the state.

As New Mexico Congresswoman Yvette Harrell tweets: “Sports Illustrated seems to be under the impression that coaches and players praying on the field spells the end of American democracy. If that were true, American democracy would have been destroyed long before the legendary Jim Thorpe threw his first pigskin.”

She’s right, of course. Let’s hope the Supreme Court is as well.

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