An assistant high school football coach spent eight years fighting for his job after being fired for praying on the field at the end of every football game. He got his job back, but now he doesn’t think he wants it. Here’s the whole story.
Joe Kennedy was the assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in Washington.
He was let go from his position by the school district after causing controversy for praying at the end of each game.
School officials were concerned that allowing Kennedy to pray after football games would “suggest government endorsement of religion,” which would be a violation of the separation of church and state.
Kennedy fought for his job for seven years and was finally rehired after the United States Supreme Court ruled that Kennedy’s post-game prayers were protected by the Constitution.
Constitutionally Protected Prayers
Kennedy was arguing that praying was private speech that was protected by the First Amendment right to free speech and free expression of religion.
Kennedy lost several court cases before he was able to reach the Supreme Court level.
Justice Neil Gorsuch presided over the case and wrote, “the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.”
The court ruled that Kennedy’s prayers were protected “provided the coach didn’t coerce anyone to participate.”
Before returning to the sidelines for a Friday night football game, Kennedy was nervous and said he had “angst in [his] stomach.”
“Bringing God Back Into Public Schools”
He was no longer sure he wanted the job he fought so hard for.
Kennedy planned to continue with his post-game prayer tradition but was worried that people would “freak out” over him “bringing God back into public schools.”
The thought of kneeling on the field again made him queasy before his first game back on the sidelines.
The assistant high school football coach moved to Florida with his wife after being fired but returned to Bremerton because he felt it was his “duty.”
He was staying with a friend in Bremerton so that he could return to the part-time job that paid him “less than $5,000.”
A lot of people want to know “What’s next?” for Kennedy, but he said he has “no idea” if he will stay for the entire season or just a few games.
He acknowledged that “it’s not going to be football forever,” but hadn’t made any final decisions.
Two days before the game, Kennedy led the high school players in catching and tackling drills.
He wore a sleeveless t-shirt with the word “essential” on the front. The letter t in ‘essential’ resembled a cross.
The school district posted a statement on its website saying, “We look forward to moving past the distraction of this nearly 8-year legal battle so that our school community can focus on what matters most: providing our children the best education possible.”
Critics on X (Twitter) think Kennedy should “go somewhere where he is valued.”
Another person said, “Our country was founded on Christian values,” and “there is nothing wrong with that.”
During the years Kennedy was fighting for his job, he and his wife attended a rally for Donald Trump and recently had dinner with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. At the dinner, DeSantis asked Kennedy for his help on the presidential campaign trail.
DeSantis also told Kennedy he wanted him to be on his “faith advisory board.” Kennedy said that DeSantis “invited [him] to Iowa” and called to say, “Hey, I really need to know, are you in my camp or not?”
Kennedy chose to decline the faith advisory board invite from DeSantis, saying, “Well, I’m sorry. My loyalty is to Trump.”
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