Doug Peterson

Nebraska Attorney General

Attorney General Doug Peterson Urges SCOTUS to Uphold First Amendment Rights of Public Employees

Lincoln Attorney General Doug Peterson joined a coalition of 27 states urging the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to reverse a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that failed to uphold the constitutional rights of a high school coach who was punished for praying alone on a football field in view of students. The case is Joseph A. Kennedy v. Bremerton School District.

“Government employees do not lose their constitutional right to free speech simply because they work for the government,” General Peterson said. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will make that clear and uphold Coach Kennedy’s freedom to pray in public.”

The amicus brief argues that:

  • Contrary to the Ninth Circuit’s opinion, Supreme Court precedents do not hold that a public employee’s private speech (like Coach Kennedy’s private prayer) is exempt from First Amendment protection.
  • Allowing the School District to justify its discriminatory actions under the Establishment Clause not only conflicts with settled constitutional principles, but it also creates problems for both public employers and public employees.
  • The Ninth Circuit’s curtailment of First Amendment liberties is detrimental to public service. Private religious expression and public service can and must coexist.

This amicus brief was led by Arizona, Alaska, Florida, and Texas and was joined by attorneys general from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.