Pushback: Supreme Court rules in favor of HS football coach fired for praying

Joe Kennedy: An American once again free to pray
Joe Kennedy: An American once again free to pray,
when and where he wishes.

Bring a gun to a knife fight: In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court today ruled in favor of high school coach Joe Kennedy, who was fired by the Bremerton School District in Washington because he choose to kneel and pray quietly on the football field at the end of each game.

Joe Kennedy was a junior varsity head coach and varsity assistant coach with the Bremerton School District in Washington from 2008 to 2015. He began the practice of reciting a post-game prayer by himself, but eventually students started joining him. According to court documents, this evolved into motivational speeches that included religious themes. After an opposing coach brought it to the principal’s attention, the school district told Kennedy to stop. He did, temporarily, then notified the school that he would resume the practice.

The situation garnered media attention, and when Kennedy announced that he would go back to praying on the field, it raised security concerns. When he did pray after the game, a number of people stormed the field in support.

The school district then offered to let Kennedy pray in other locations before and after games, or for him to pray on the 50-yard line after everyone else had left the premises, but he refused, insisting that he would continue his regular practice. After continuing the prayers at two more games, the school district placed Kennedy on leave.

He eventually lost the job when the school district refused to renew his contract.

You can read the Supreme Court’s ruling here [pdf].

Initially Kennedy was holding locker room prayer sessions and postgame religious talks, actions by a public school teacher that are certainly inappropriate. However, when the district demanded these stop he did so.

Subsequently he began praying on the field, alone and silent, after games. This action did attract some students to join him, but since he did not require participation he was violating no one’s rights, nor was he acting as a government agent at that time.
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