Skip To Content
Get Our Newsletter
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Culture

We want to hear your stories about religion in public schools

After a Supreme Court decision allowed a football coach to lead prayers, Jews are telling their stories of growing up in Christian-dominated schools. We want yours.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that a public school’s football coach, Joseph Kennedy, could lead students in prayer on the field. Forbidding him from doing so, according to a decision authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch, violated his freedom of speech.

The court’s three liberal justices, in a dissent written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, argued that the decision failed to protect the separation of church and state, and effectively allowed a public employee to coerce students into prayer. “Students look up to their teachers and coaches as role models and seek their approval,” she wrote. “Players recognize that gaining the coach’s approval may pay dividends small and large, from extra playing time to a stronger letter of recommendation to additional support in college athletic recruiting.”

The decision caused Jews to take to social media with their own tales of encountering Christian pressure in public schools. Clearly, even before this decision, many Jews felt discriminated against due to religion while attending public school. A frequent theme was being forced to sing Christmas carols in choir, or having to walk away during classroom recitations of the Lord’s Prayer — a choice that often resulted in harsh criticism from teachers, coaches or administrators.

Exactly how coercive such moments are was key to the decision — but Gorsuch and Sotomayor disagreed on how to characterize Kennedy’s prayers. Gorsuch’s decision said Kennedy conducted prayers quietly without creating undue social pressure on students. Sotomayor included photos of the entire team gathered around the coach on the field to prove that the prayers were not offered “quietly while his students were otherwise occupied,” as Gorsuch wrote, but instead were public in such a way that students felt forced to participate.

If you have a story about you, your child or a family member attending public school as a Jewish kid and encountering religious pressures, prayer or other practices, whether Easter bunny art units or teachers asking students who believes in Jesus, we want to hear it — please fill out the form below. Click next to move onto the next question. Thank you!

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free under an Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives Creative Commons license as long as you follow our republishing guidelines, which require that you credit the Foward and retain our pixel. See our full guidelines for more information.

To republish, copy the HTML, which includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline, images, and credit to the Foward. Have questions? Please email us at editorial@forward.com.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.