Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Eleventh Circuit

No. 20–1410. Argued March 1, 2022—Decided June 27, 2022 1

Petitioners Xiulu Ruan and Shakeel Kahn are medical doctors licensed to prescribe controlled substances. Each was tried for violating 21 U. S. C. §841, which makes it a federal crime, “[e]xcept as authorized[,] . . . for any person knowingly or intentionally . . . to manufacture, distribute, or dispense . . . a controlled substance.” A federal regulation authorizes registered doctors to dispense controlled substances via prescription, but only if the prescription is “issued for a legitimate medical purpose by an individual practitioner acting in the usual course of his professional practice.” 21 CFR §1306.04(a). At issue in Ruan’s and Kahn’s trials was the mens rea required to convict under §841 for distributing controlled substances not “as authorized.” Ruan and Kahn each contested the jury instructions pertaining to mens rea given at their trials, and each was ultimately convicted under §841 for prescribing in an unauthorized manner. Their convictions were separately affirmed by the Courts of Appeals.

Held: Section 841’s “knowingly or intentionally” mens rea applies to the statute’s “except as authorized” clause. Once a defendant meets the burden of producing evidence that his or her conduct was “authorized,” the Government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly or intentionally acted in an unauthorized manner. Pp. 4–16.

 (a) Criminal law generally seeks to punish conscious wrongdoing. Thus, when interpreting criminal statutes, the Court “start[s] from a longstanding presumption . . . that Congress intends to require a defendant to possess a culpable mental state.” Rehaif v. United States, 588 U. S. ___, ___. This culpable mental state, known as scienter, refers to the degree of knowledge necessary to make a person criminally responsible for his or her acts. See ibid. The presumption of scienter applies even when a statute does not include a scienter provision, and when a statute does “includ[e] a general scienter provision,” “the presumption applies with equal or greater force” to the scope of that provision. Ibid. The Court has accordingly held that a word such as “knowingly” modifies not only the words directly following it, but also those other statutory terms that “separate wrongful from innocent acts.” Id., at ___.

 Here, §841 contains a general scienter provision—“knowingly or intentionally.” And in §841 prosecutions, authorization plays a “crucial” role in separating innocent conduct from wrongful conduct. United States v. X-Citement Video, Inc., 513 U. S. 64, 73. Moreover, the regulatory language defining an authorized prescription is “ambiguous” and “open to varying constructions,” Gonzales v. Oregon, 546 U. S. 243, 258, meaning that prohibited conduct (issuing invalid prescriptions) is “often difficult to distinguish” from acceptable conduct (issuing valid prescriptions). United States v. United States Gypsum Co., 438 U. S. 422, 441. A strong scienter requirement helps reduce the risk of “overdeterrence,” i.e., punishing conduct that lies close to, but on the permissible side of, the criminal line. Ibid.

 The statutory provisions at issue here are also not the kind to which the Court has held the presumption of scienter does not apply. Section 841 does not define a regulatory or public welfare offense that carries only minor penalties. Cf. Rehaif, 588 U. S., at ___; Staples v. United States, 511 U. S. 600, 618–619. Nor is the “except as authorized” clause a jurisdictional provision. Cf. Rehaif, 588 U. S., at ___. Pp. 5–8.

 (b) Analogous precedent reinforces the Court’s conclusion here. In Liparota v. United States, 471 U. S. 419, United States v. X-Citement Video, 513 U. S. 64, and Rehaif v. United States, 588 U. S. ___, the Court interpreted statutes containing a general scienter provision (“knowingly”), and considered what mental state applied to a statutory clause that did not immediately follow the “knowingly” provision. In all three cases, the Court held that “knowingly” modified the statutory clause in question because that clause played a critical role in separating a defendant’s wrongful from innocent conduct. See Liparota, 471 U. S., at 426; X-Citement Video, 513 U. S., at 72–73; Rehaif, 588 U. S., at ___. As in those cases, the Court today concludes that §841’s mens rea applies to the “[e]xcept as authorized” clause, which serves to separate a defendant’s wrongful from proper conduct. Pp. 8–9. (c) Neither the Government’s nor the concurrence’s contrary argu ments are convincing. First, the Government and the concurrence correctly note that the statutory clauses in the cases just described set forth elements of an offense. Here, the Government and the concurrence say, §841’s “[e]xcept as authorized” clause does not set forth an element of the offense. In support, they point to a separate statutory provision—§885. Section 885 says that the Government need not “negative any exemption or exception . . . in any complaint, information, indictment, or other pleading or in any trial,” and that “the burden of going forward with the evidence with respect to any such exemption or exception shall be upon the person claiming its benefit,” not upon the prosecution. But even assuming that lack of authorization is unlike an element in these two ways, §885 has little or nothing to do with scienter requirements. Section 885 simply absolves the Government of having to allege, in an indictment, the inapplicability of every statutory exception in each Controlled Substances Act prosecution. Section 885 also shifts the burden of production—but not the burden of persuasion—regarding statutory exceptions to the defendant, thereby relieving the Government of having to disprove, at the outset of every prosecution, the inapplicability of all exceptions.

 Section 885 thus does not provide a basis for inferring that Congress intended to do away with, or weaken, ordinary and longstanding scienter requirements. At the same time, the factors discussed above—the language of §841; the crucial role authorization plays in distinguishing morally blameworthy conduct from socially necessary conduct; the serious nature of the crime and its penalties; and the vague, highly general regulatory language defining the scope of prescribing authority—all support applying normal scienter principles to the “except as authorized” clause. And the Government does not deny that, once a defendant satisfies his burden of production under §885 by invoking the authorization exception, the Government must then prove lack of authorization by satisfying the ordinary criminal law burden of proof—beyond a reasonable doubt.

 The Government also offers a substitute mens rea standard. Instead of applying the statute’s “knowingly or intentionally” language to the authorization clause, the Government instead asserts that the statute implicitly contains an “objectively reasonable good-faith effort” or “objective honest-effort standard.” Brief for United States 16–17. But §841 uses the words “knowingly or intentionally,” not “good faith,” “objectively,” “reasonable,” or “honest effort.” And the Government’s standard would turn a defendant’s criminal liability on the mental state of a hypothetical “reasonable” doctor, rather than on the mental state of the defendant himself or herself. The Court has rejected analogous suggestions in other criminal contexts. See Elonis v. United States, 575 U. S. 723. And the Government is wrong to assert that the Court effectively endorsed its honest-effort standard in United States v. Moore, 423 U. S. 122, as that case did not address mens rea at all. Nor does United States v. Yermian, 468 U. S. 63, support the Government here, as that case dealt with a jurisdictional clause, to which the presumption of scienter does not apply.

 Finally, the Government argues that requiring it to prove that a doctor knowingly or intentionally acted not “as authorized” will allow bad-apple doctors to escape liability by claiming idiosyncratic views about their prescribing authority. But the Court has often rejected this kind of argument, see, e.g., Rehaif, 588 U. S., at ___, and does so again here. Pp. 9–15.

 (d) The Court of Appeals in both cases evaluated the jury instructions relating to mens rea under an incorrect understanding of §841’s scienter requirements. On remand, those courts may address whether the instructions complied with the mens rea standard set forth here, as well as whether any instructional error was harmless. P. 15.

966 F. 3d 1101 and 989 F. 3d 806, vacated and remanded.

 Breyer, J. delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Sotomayor, Kagan, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh, JJ., joined. Alito, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which Thomas, J., joined, and in which Barrett, J., joined as to Parts I–A, I–B, and II.

1 Together with No. 21–5261, Kahn v. United States, on certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.


Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The First Circuit

No. 20–1650. Argued January 19, 2022—Decided June 27, 2022

Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 to correct the wide disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing. Section 2 of that Act increased the amount of crack cocaine needed to trigger a 5-to-40-year sentencing range from 5 grams to 28 grams. §2(a)(2), 124 Stat. 2372. The Fair Sentencing Act did not apply retroactively, but in 2011, the Sentencing Commission amended the Sentencing Guidelines to lower the Guidelines range for crack-cocaine offenses and applied that reduction retroactively for some defendants. In 2018, Congress enacted the First Step Act, authorizing district courts to “impose a reduced sentence” on defendants serving sentences for certain crack-cocaine offenses “as if sections 2 and 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act . . . were in effect at the time the covered offense was committed.” Pub. L. 115–391, §404(b), 132 Stat. 5222.

  In 2007, petitioner Carlos Concepcion pleaded guilty to one count of distributing five or more grams of crack cocaine in violation of 21 U. S. C. §841(a)(1), and he was sentenced in 2009 to 19 years (228 months) in prison. When Concepcion was sentenced, he qualified for sentencing as a “career offender.” The career offender provision and other enhancements increased Concepcion’s Sentencing Guidelines range from 57 to 71 months to 262 to 327 months. Because Concepcion was sentenced as a career offender, he was not eligible for relief under the Sentencing Commission’s 2011 amendment.

  In 2019, Concepcion filed a pro se motion for a sentence reduction under the First Step Act. He argued that he was serving a sentence for a “covered offense” because §2 of the Fair Sentencing Act “modified” the statutory penalties for his conviction under 21 U. S. C. §841(a)(1). Concepcion contended that retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act lowered his Guidelines range from 262 to 327 months to 188 to 235 months. The Government conceded Concepcion’s eligibility for relief but opposed the motion, emphasizing that Concepcion’s original sentence of 228 months fell within the new Guidelines range of 188 to 235 months, and citing factors in Concepcion’s prison record that the Government believed counseled against a sentence reduction. In his reply brief, represented by counsel, Concepcion made two primary arguments in support of a reduced sentence. First, he argued that he would no longer be considered a career offender because one of his prior convictions had been vacated and his remaining convictions would not constitute crimes of violence that trigger the enhancement. Without the enhancement, Concepcion contended that his revised Guidelines range should be 57 to 71 months. Second, Concepcion pointed to postsentencing evidence of rehabilitation.

  The District Court denied Concepcion’s motion. It declined to consider that Concepcion would no longer qualify as a career offender based on its judgment that the First Step Act did not authorize such relief. App. to Pet. for Cert. 72a. The District Court did not address Concepcion’s evidence of rehabilitation or the Government’s countervailing evidence of Concepcion’s disciplinary record. The Court of Appeals affirmed in a divided opinion, and added to the disagreement among the Circuits as to whether a district court deciding a First Step Act motion must, may, or may not consider intervening changes of law or fact.

Held: The First Step Act allows district courts to consider intervening changes of law or fact in exercising their discretion to reduce a sentence. Pp. 6–18.

  (a) Federal courts historically have exercised broad discretion to consider all relevant information at an initial sentencing hearing, consistent with their responsibility to sentence the whole person before them. That discretion also carries forward to later proceedings that may modify an original sentence. District courts’ discretion is bounded only when Congress or the Constitution expressly limits the type of information a district court may consider in modifying a sentence. Pp. 6–11.

  (1) There is a “long” and “durable” tradition that sentencing judges “enjo[y] discretion in the sort of information they may consider” at an initial sentencing proceeding. Dean v. United States, 581 U. S. 62, 66. That unbroken tradition also characterizes federal sentencing history. Indeed, “[i]t has been uniform and constant in the federal judicial tradition for the sentencing judge to consider every convicted person as an individual and every case as a unique study in the human failings that sometimes mitigate, sometimes magnify, the crime and the punishment to ensue.” Koon v. United States, 518 U. S. 81, 113. Accordingly, a federal judge in deciding to impose a sentence “may appropriately conduct an inquiry broad in scope, largely unlimited either as to the kind of information he may consider, or the source from which it may come.” United States v. Tucker, 404 U. S. 443, 446. Pp. 6–8.

  (2) The discretion federal judges hold at initial sentencings also characterizes sentencing modification hearings. The Court in Pepper v. United States, 562 U. S. 476, found it “clear that when a defendant’s sentence has been set aside on appeal and his case remanded for resentencing, a district court may consider evidence of a defendant’s rehabilitation since his prior sentencing.” Id., at 490. Accordingly, federal courts resentencing individuals whose sentences were vacated on appeal regularly consider evidence of rehabilitation, or evidence of rule breaking in prison, developed after the initial sentencing. Where district courts must calculate new Guidelines ranges as part of resentencing proceedings, courts have also exercised their discretion to consider nonretroactive Guidelines changes. In some cases, a district court is prohibited from recalculating a Guidelines range to account for nonretroactive Guidelines amendments, but the court may nevertheless find those amendments to be germane when deciding whether to modify a sentence at all, and if so, to what extent. Pp. 8–9.

  (3) The only limitations on a court’s discretion to consider relevant materials at an initial sentencing or in modifying that sentence are those set forth by Congress in a statute or by the Constitution. See Pepper, 562 U. S., at 489, n. 8; Mistretta v. United States, 488 U. S. 361, 364. Congress has placed such limits where it deems them appropriate. See 18 U. S. C. §§3582(a), 3583(c). Congress has further imposed express statutory limitations on one type of sentencing modification proceeding, expressly cabining district courts’ discretion by requiring courts to abide by the Sentencing Commission’s policy statements. See also §3582(c)(1)(A) (compassionate release). Pp. 9–11.

  (b) Congress in the First Step Act did not contravene well-established sentencing practices. Pp. 11–18.

  (1) Nothing in the text and structure of the First Step Act expressly, or even implicitly, overcomes the established tradition of district courts’ sentencing discretion. The text of the First Step Act does not so much as hint that district courts are prohibited from considering evidence of rehabilitation, disciplinary infractions, or unrelated Guidelines changes. The only two limitations on district courts’ discretion appear in §404(c): A district court may not consider a First Step Act motion if the movant’s sentence was already reduced under the Fair Sentencing Act or if the court considered and rejected a motion under the First Step Act. Neither limitation applies here. By its terms, §404(c) does not prohibit district courts from considering any arguments in favor of, or against, sentence modification. In fact, §404(c) only underscores that a district court is not required to modify a sentence for any reason. “Drawing meaning from silence is particularly inappropriate” in the sentencing context, “for Congress has shown that it knows how to direct sentencing practices in express terms.” Kimbrough v. United States, 552 U. S. 85, 103.

 The “as if ” clause in §404(b) does not impose any limit on the information a district court can consider in exercising its discretion under the First Step Act. The term “as if ” simply enacts the First Step Act’s central goal: to make retroactive the changes in the Fair Sentencing Act, necessary to overcome 1 U. S. C. §109, which creates a presumption that Congress does not repeal federal criminal penalties unless it says so “expressly.” The “as if ” clause also directs district courts to apply the Fair Sentencing Act as if it applied at the time of the commission of the offense, not at the time of the original sentencing, suggesting that Congress did not intend to constrain district courts to considering only the original sentencing record. Thus, the “as if ” clause requires district courts to apply the legal changes in the Fair Sentencing Act when recalculating a movant’s Guidelines, but it does not limit the information a district court may use to inform its decision whether and how much to reduce a sentence. Pp. 11–14.

  (2) Consistent with this text and structure, district courts deciding First Step Act motions regularly have considered evidence of postsentencing rehabilitation and unrelated Guidelines amendments when raised by the parties. First Step Act movants have amassed prison records of over a decade. See §404(a), 132 Stat. 5222 (requiring the movant to have been sentenced for an offense “committed before August 3, 2010”). Those records are naturally of interest to judges authorized by the First Step Act to reduce prison sentences or even to release movants immediately. Likewise, when deciding whether to grant First Step Act motions and in deciding how much to reduce sentences, courts have looked to postsentencing evidence of violence or prison infractions as probative. Moreover, when raised by the parties, district courts have considered nonretroactive Guidelines amendments to help inform whether to reduce sentences at all, and if so, by how much. Nothing express or implicit in the First Step Act suggests that these courts misinterpreted the Act in considering such relevant and probative information. Pp. 14–16.

  (3) The Court therefore holds that the First Step Act allows district courts to consider intervening changes of law or fact in exercising their discretion to reduce a sentence pursuant to the First Step Act. When deciding a First Step Act motion, district courts bear the standard obligation to explain their decisions and demonstrate that they considered the parties’ nonfrivolous arguments. See Golan v. Saada, 596 U. S. ___, ___. The district court is not required to articulate anything more than a brief statement of reasons. See Rita v. United States, 551 U. S. 338, 356.

 The broad discretion that the First Step Act affords to district courts also counsels in favor of deferential appellate review. See Solem v. Helm, 463 U. S. 277, 290, n. 16. Section 404(c) of the First Step Act confers particular discretion because the Act does not “require a court to reduce any sentence.” Other than legal errors in recalculating the Guidelines to account for the Fair Sentencing Act’s changes, see Gall v. United States, 552 U. S. 38, 51, appellate review should not be overly searching. Pp. 16–18.

991 F. 3d 279, reversed and remanded.

 Sotomayor, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas, Breyer, Kagan, and Gorsuch, JJ., joined. Kavanaugh, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Roberts, C. J., and Alito and Barrett, JJ., joined.

Kennedy v. Bremerton School District

Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit

No. 21–418. Argued April 25, 2022—Decided June 27, 2022

Petitioner Joseph Kennedy lost his job as a high school football coach in the Bremerton School District after he knelt at midfield after games to offer a quiet personal prayer. Mr. Kennedy sued in federal court, alleging that the District’s actions violated the First Amendment’s Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses. He also moved for a preliminary injunction requiring the District to reinstate him. The District Court denied that motion, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed. After the parties engaged in discovery, they filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The District Court found that the “ ‘sole reason’ ” for the District’s decision to suspend Mr. Kennedy was its perceived “risk of constitutional liability” under the Establishment Clause for his “religious conduct” after three games in October 2015. 443 F. Supp. 3d 1223, 1231. The District Court granted summary judgment to the District and the Ninth Circuit affirmed. The Ninth Circuit denied a petition to rehear the case en banc over the dissents of 11 judges. 4 F. 4th 910, 911. Several dissenters argued that the panel applied a flawed understanding of the Establishment Clause reflected in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U. S. 602, and that this Court has abandoned Lemon’s “ahistorical, atextual” approach to discerning Establishment Clause violations. 4 F. 4th, at 911, and n. 3.

Held: The Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect an individual engaging in a personal religious observance from government reprisal; the Constitution neither mandates nor permits the government to suppress such religious expression. Pp. 11–32.

  (a) Mr. Kennedy contends that the District’s conduct violated both the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment. Where the Free Exercise Clause protects religious exercises, the Free Speech Clause provides overlapping protection for expressive religious activities. See, e.g., Widmar v. Vincent, 454 U. S. 263, 269, n. 6. A plaintiff must demonstrate an infringement of his rights under the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses. If the plaintiff carries his or her burden, the defendant must show that its actions were nonetheless justified and appropriately tailored. Pp. 11–30.

   (1) Mr. Kennedy discharged his burden under the Free Exercise Clause. The Court’s precedents permit a plaintiff to demonstrate a free exercise violation multiple ways, including by showing that a government entity has burdened his sincere religious practice pursuant to a policy that is not “neutral” or “generally applicable.” Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Ore. v. Smith, 494 U. S. 872, 879–881. Failing either the neutrality or general applicability test is sufficient to trigger strict scrutiny, under which the government must demonstrate its course was justified by a compelling state interest and was narrowly tailored in pursuit of that interest. See, e.g., Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah, 508 U. S. 520, 546.

  Here, no one questions that Mr. Kennedy seeks to engage in a sincerely motivated religious exercise involving giving “thanks through prayer” briefly “on the playing field” at the conclusion of each game he coaches. App. 168, 171. The contested exercise here does not involve leading prayers with the team; the District disciplined Mr. Kennedy only for his decision to persist in praying quietly without his students after three games in October 2015. In forbidding Mr. Kennedy’s brief prayer, the District’s challenged policies were neither neutral nor generally applicable. By its own admission, the District sought to restrict Mr. Kennedy’s actions at least in part because of their religious character. Prohibiting a religious practice was thus the District’s unquestioned “object.” The District explained that it could not allow an on-duty employee to engage in religious conduct even though it allowed other on-duty employees to engage in personal secular conduct. The District’s performance evaluation after the 2015 football season also advised against rehiring Mr. Kennedy on the ground that he failed to supervise student-athletes after games, but any sort of postgame supervisory requirement was not applied in an evenhanded way. Pp. 12–14. The District thus conceded that its policies were neither neutral nor generally applicable.

   (2) Mr. Kennedy also discharged his burden under the Free Speech Clause. The First Amendment’s protections extend to “teachers and students,” neither of whom “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist., 393 U. S. 503, 506. But teachers and coaches are also government employees paid in part to speak on the government’s behalf and to convey its intended mes sages. To account for the complexity associated with the interplay between free speech rights and government employment, this Court’s decisions in Pickering v. Board of Ed. of Township High School Dist. 205, Will Cty., 391 U. S. 563, and Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U. S. 410, and related cases suggest proceeding in two steps. The first step involves a threshold inquiry into the nature of the speech at issue. When an employee “speaks as a citizen addressing a matter of public concern,” the Court’s cases indicate that the First Amendment may be implicated and courts should proceed to a second step. Id., at 423. At this step, courts should engage in “a delicate balancing of the competing interests surrounding the speech and its consequences.” Ibid. At the first step of the Pickering–Garcetti inquiry, the parties’ disagreement centers on one question: Did Mr. Kennedy offer his prayers in his capacity as a private citizen, or did they amount to government speech attributable to the District?

  When Mr. Kennedy uttered the three prayers that resulted in his suspension, he was not engaged in speech “ordinarily within the scope” of his duties as a coach. Lane v. Franks, 573 U. S. 228, 240. He did not speak pursuant to government policy and was not seeking to convey a government-created message. He was not instructing players, discussing strategy, encouraging better on-field performance, or engaged in any other speech the District paid him to produce as a coach. Simply put: Mr. Kennedy’s prayers did not “ow[e their] existence” to Mr. Kennedy’s responsibilities as a public employee. Garcetti, 547 U. S., at 421. The timing and circumstances of Mr. Kennedy’s prayers—during the postgame period when coaches were free to attend briefly to personal matters and students were engaged in other activities—confirms that Mr. Kennedy did not offer his prayers while acting within the scope of his duties as a coach. It is not dispositive that Coach Kennedy served as a role model and remained on duty after games. To hold otherwise is to posit an “excessively broad job descriptio[n]” by treating everything teachers and coaches say in the workplace as government speech subject to government control. Garcetti, 547 U. S., at 424. That Mr. Kennedy used available time to pray does not transform his speech into government speech. Acknowledging that Mr. Kennedy’s prayers represented his own private speech means he has carried his threshold burden. Under the Pickering–Garcetti framework, a second step remains where the government may seek to prove that its interests as employer outweigh even an employee’s private speech on a matter of public concern. See Lane, 573 U. S., at 242. Pp. 15–19.

   (3) Whether one views the case through the lens of the Free Exercise or Free Speech Clause, at this point the burden shifts to the District. Under the Free Exercise Clause, a government entity normally must satisfy at least “strict scrutiny,” showing that its restrictions on the plaintiff’s protected rights serve a compelling interest and are narrowly tailored to that end. See Lukumi, 508 U. S., at 533. A similar standard generally obtains under the Free Speech Clause. See Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 576 U. S. 155, 171. The District asks the Court to apply to Mr. Kennedy’s claims the more lenient second-step Pickering–Garcetti test, or alternatively, intermediate scrutiny. The Court concludes, however, that the District cannot sustain its burden under any standard. Pp. 19–30.

    i. The District, like the Ninth Circuit below, insists Mr. Kennedy’s rights to religious exercise and free speech must yield to the District’s interest in avoiding an Establishment Clause violation under Lemon and its progeny. The Lemon approach called for an examination of a law’s purposes, effects, and potential for entanglement with religion. Lemon, 403 U. S., at 612–613. In time, that approach also came to involve estimations about whether a “reasonable observer” would consider the government’s challenged action an “endorsement” of religion. See, e.g., County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union, Greater Pittsburgh Chapter, 492 U. S. 573, 593. But—given the apparent “shortcomings” associated with Lemon’s “ambitiou[s],” abstract, and ahistorical approach to the Establishment Clause—this Court long ago abandoned Lemon and its endorsement test offshoot. American Legion v. American Humanist Assn., 588 U. S. ___, ___ (plurality opinion).

  In place of Lemon and the endorsement test, this Court has instructed that the Establishment Clause must be interpreted by “‘reference to historical practices and understandings.’ ” Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 U. S. 565, 576. A natural reading of the First Amendment suggests that the Clauses have “complementary” purposes, not warring ones where one Clause is always sure to prevail over the others. Everson v. Board of Ed. of Ewing, 330 U. S. 1, 13, 15. An analysis focused on original meaning and history, this Court has stressed, has long represented the rule rather than some “ ‘exception’ ” within the “Court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence.” Town of Greece, at 575. The District and the Ninth Circuit erred by failing to heed this guidance. Pp. 19–30.

    ii. The District next attempts to justify its suppression of Mr. Kennedy’s religious activity by arguing that doing otherwise would coerce students to pray. The Ninth Circuit did not adopt this theory in proceedings below and evidence of coercion in this record is absent. The District suggests that any visible religious conduct by a teacher or coach should be deemed—without more and as a matter of law—impermissibly coercive on students. A rule that the only acceptable government role models for students are those who eschew any visible religious expression would undermine a long constitutional tradition in which learning how to tolerate diverse expressive activities has always been “part of learning how to live in a pluralistic society.” Lee v. Wesiman, 505 U. S. 577, 590. No historically sound understanding of the Establishment Clause begins to “mak[e] it necessary for government to be hostile to religion” in this way. Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U. S. 306, 314. Pp. 24–30.

    iii. There is no conflict between the constitutional commands of the First Amendment in this case. There is only the “mere shadow” of a conflict, a false choice premised on a misconstruction of the Establishment Clause. School Dist. of Abington Township v. Schempp, 374 U. S. 203, 308 (Goldberg, J., concurring). A government entity’s concerns about phantom constitutional violations do not justify actual violations of an individual’s First Amendment rights. Pp. 30–31.

  (c) Respect for religious expressions is indispensable to life in a free and diverse Republic. Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a personal religious observance, based on a mistaken view that it has a duty to suppress religious observances even as it allows comparable secular speech. The Constitution neither mandates nor tolerates that kind of discrimination. Mr. Kennedy is entitled to summary judgment on his religious exercise and free speech claims. Pp. 31–32.

991 F. 3d 1004, reversed.

 Gorsuch, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Thomas, Alito, and Barrett, JJ., joined, and in which Kavanaugh, J., joined, except as to Part III–B. Thomas , J., and Alito, J., filed concurring opinions. Sotomayor, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Breyer and Kagan, JJ., joined.