Attorneys representing a high school football coach who lost his job for praying at midfield after games argued his case before a federal appeals court Monday.
Joe Kennedy was an assistant football coach for the Bremerton School District in Washington State who made it a practice to go the 50-yard-line, kneel down and pray after each game. He began the practice not long after he was hired in 2008 and, at first, he prayed alone, but like-minded players from both teams began joining him after the games.
The prayers continued until 2015, when the district suddenly ordered him to stop. Despite initially obeying the order, Kennedy believed it violated his freedoms of speech and religion and did it again, a decision which eventually cost him his job.
He’s now suing the district to get his job back and the right to pray after games.
Attorneys for the school district argued that the prayers violate the constitution because teachers can exert pressure on students — intentional or not — which can result in coercion. They said that any religious expression by a teacher where students are present would cross the line.
Kennedy’s attorneys maintain that the prayers were a private expression of faith and, therefore, don’t violate the constitution.
Kennedy told the Kitsap Sun that he’s glad he had the opportunity to appeal the case.
“I’m very encouraged because it really is letting everybody know what our constitutional rights are and people start to communicate and start asking the question, ‘What are our rights?’ Everybody here questions what they are, but to find out what the Constitution really means, it’s great to be involved in it. Good communication, we need more of that,” he said.
He also said he wants to get back out on the field with his players.
“I want to be a coach. I want to be out there with my young men,” Kennedy said. “I really believe (coaches) are one of the mentors for these young men to become somebody in society, to know how to be better young men.”