After the Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of high school football coach Joseph Kennedy, who was fired for his postgame prayers at midfield, he said he sees this as a victory for all Americans.
“‘It is just incredible to know that I did nothing wrong. Everything I did was fine,” Kennedy told the U.K.’s Daily Mail in an interview Monday.
Kennedy started coaching at Bremerton High School near Seattle in 2008 after a 20-year career in the Marine Corps.
After games, the coach prayed at the 50-yard-line — alone at first, but later with his players and even some from other teams.
The school district objected to his prayers, however, and when Kennedy refused to stop the practice, he was let go in 2015.
But he took the issue to court. Over the past seven years, the case has made its way through the courts and all the way up to the Supreme Court as it was an issue concerning the rights free religious exercise and free speech under the First Amendment.
On Monday, the court ruled 6-3 in favor of Kennedy, declaring that his action of praying after games was indeed protected under the First Amendment.
After the landmark decision, the coach said he was relieved and happy that freedom of religion was upheld for everyone.
“I don’t even know how to put it into words,” he said. “They should give me a day off to think about it and process it all.”
“The First Amendment is fine and well for everyone,” Kennedy said.
He said he had never coerced any player or student to join him in prayer after games and it had always been a personal act of worship, even when others did decide to join him.
“I had a commitment with God that I’d give him thanks after every football game, win or lose,” Kennedy said. “And that’s the way I started out.”
“I had some kids that wanted to join, and they asked, and of course it’s a free country,” the coach said.
“They can do whatever they want. And that went on fine for eight years. … Then someone made a complaint, and they started an investigation,” he said.
“And the lawyers got involved from the school district and they wanted to completely remove all religious aspects from the public schools,” Kennedy said. “So they fired me, and I’ve just been fighting ever since to get back.”
One of Kennedy’s lawyers, Jeremy Dys, said he was surprised that the case kept being passed up the court system until they had to fight it before the Supreme Court.
He thought it was a clear-cut constitutional case.
“It’s unfortunate that it had to go all the way to the Supreme Court to figure that out,” Dys told the Daily Mail.
“We thought, when we took this case on, that we’d be working on it for three weeks. And everything would move on,” he said. “But the school district kept moving the goalposts.”
Kennedy agreed and said that he thought it was a simple case when it started out.
“I really thought if someone just looked at the facts of the case and the way the Constitution was written, that they would have to rule in my favor,” he said. “I was optimistic every step of the way, and I was surprised that the lower courts ruled against me — some of them so harshly.”
“I wasn’t trying to do anything with anybody else,” the coach said. “This was just me thanking God for 15 seconds, after a football game. It had nothing to do with anything else.”
Kennedy said he believes that all Americans should agree with the court’s ruling since it is a matter of religious freedom and free speech, which are fundamental rights protected under the First Amendment.
“I think every American should have been totally 100 percent on my side. From just my perspective,” he said. “This is about the First Amendment. It has nothing to do with infringing on anybody else’s. This is somebody exercising the freedom that is in our country. And that’s how I look at it.”
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