The question, as Justice Elena Kagan put it, was about “coercion.” As she pointed out, a football coach exerts enormous power in a high school setting. He can decide which student athletes start or play at all; he can recommend (or refuse to recommend) students for scholarships and jobs. If a coach with that kind of power conducts “voluntary” prayer sessions after games, are the prayers really voluntary or a form of coercion?
In Monday’s argument, the school board’s lawyer said a postgame prayer should meet the same fate. But Paul Clement, the lawyer for the coach, said the prayer in the Texas case was made over a loudspeaker and thus was more intrusive. More candidly, Clement suggested that the Texas case was obsolete under the court’s current precedents and should be overruled.
The end point of this offensive by conservatives is now within view. At one level, it would be a voucher system for all primary and secondary education — where government funds go to the schools that parents and children choose, whether they are public, private or parochial. And for the public schools that remain, mandatory prayers, which have been banned for so long, would make their return.