Bryan Fischer’s Understanding of the First Amendment Grows Ever More Incoherent

We have noted several times before that American Family Radio’s Bryan Fischer holds an utterly incoherent view of the First Amendment that is so impossible to follow that even he doesn’t seem to understand it.

Fischer repeatedly insists that the First Amendment, in addition to not applying to non-Christians, only restrains Congress and the federal government, while also complaining endlessly about entities which are not Congress or the federal government supposedly violating the First Amendment.

Fischer’s incoherence has been on full display for years in response to the case of Joe Kennedy, a high school football coach from Washington state who was fired in 2015 after he refused to stop publicly praying with players and students on the field after games. Kennedy appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court, but the court declined to hear it earlier this week. Fischer is now outraged, declaring that by refusing to overturn the firing, the federal government is violating Kennedy’s First Amendment rights (emphasis in original):

The rest of the First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law…prohibiting the free exercise (of religion)…” Here’s the kicker. Congress – and by extension, the entire federal government including the judiciary – has absolutely no permission to interfere in any way with the free exercise of religion. What did the 9th Circuit do to Coach Kennedy? Well, when it prohibited him from praying silently on the field after the game was over, it was inarguably prohibiting his free exercise of religion. So it was the 9th Circuit that violated the First Amendment, not Coach Kennedy.

Fischer said repeatedly in his latest column, just as he has said in countless previous pieces, that “the First Amendment makes plain [that] the amendment applies to Congress and Congress alone.” Fischer has also declared numerous times that “it is simply impossible for any other entity – be it a state, a county, a city, a school district, a school teacher, or a student – to violate the First Amendment for the simple reason that it wasn’t written to restrain them.”

In the case of Kennedy, it wasn’t Congress or the courts or the federal government that fired him, it was the local school district, which Fischer has explicitly and repeatedly stated is precisely the sort of entity that could never possibly violate the First Amendment in any way. Given that Fischer has asserted that “states are allowed the freedom under the Founders’ Constitution to regulate religious expression any way they choose,” he should presumably have no problem with Kennedy’s firing, since it lines up perfectly with his stated theory about the reach and scope of the First Amendment.

But apparently that is not the case, as Fischer is now arguing that the federal government has an obligation to interfere with a state’s regulation of religious expression despite having previously insisted that “states under the Founders’ Constitution are free to regulate religious expression in any way they would like without any interference from the federal government.”