The Jewish Community Federation of Richmond and its Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC) join numerous other Jewish organizations in expressing deep concern over the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday in Kennedy v. Bremerton.
The Court held that a public high school coach could use their position to initiate and lead on-field, post-game sectarian prayers and that doing so would not constitute a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court ruling reverses decades of protection of the rights of students of different non-majority belief systems and religions. It permits situations in which student-athletes, including Jewish student-athletes, may feel pressured to either join in a public display of a faith that is not their own, or to remain silent to avoid ostracization. In a time already rife with civil discord and disagreement, we are extremely concerned that the Court ruling marginalizes minority faiths. JCRC is deeply concerned that this re-opens the door that exposes Jewish students to state-funded, in-school proselytizing, marginalization, and exclusion - problems with which we are sadly familiar.
The JCRC continues to support current Virginia law (22.1-203 & .1) that protects all students, regardless of religious affiliation, from religious intimidation or coercion.
For decades, the JCRC has developed relationships with regional public schools in an effort to support Jewish students and their families, and ensure that our faith and traditions are understood and respected. The JCFR/JCRC pledges to closely follow these changes as they develop and as they impact our community.
Students and families who experience challenges related to religious freedom should contact the Federation at (804) 285-6500 or Webmaster@JewishRichmond.org.