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School Gave Coach a Prayer Ultimatum, Now He's Suing

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From 2008-2015, Bremerton High School assistant football coach and Marine Joe Kennedy prayed with students and coaches in the locker room and took a knee in prayer after every game.

For seven years, no one took issue with Kennedy’s prayers both on and off the field.

But in 2015, the school district suddenly demanded the coach stop talking to God for fear that they’d be sued.

“The (district told him) if you talk to God you’re fired,” Attorney Michael Berry said on the Todd Starnes Radio Show.

“That prayer would be by itself, silent or very quiet, and no more than 15 or 30 seconds,” he continued. “That happened for seven years without a single complaint or issue, but as we all know, no good deed goes unpunished.”

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From then on, Kennedy was no longer allowed to make it obvious that he was praying in any way.

Kneeling, bowing his head, or simply looking like he was in prayer were suddenly grounds for immediate termination.

The coach simply couldn’t agree to the district’s terms and was swiftly fired.

According to The Seattle Times, in 2016, the coach sued and lost his case at the district level and took it on to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The three judges ruled Kennedy was acting as a public employee who was pushing “his particular views upon impressionable and captive minds before him.”

But Kennedy is prepared to keep fighting to get his job back — and now, he could be taking his case to the Supreme Court.

Represented by First Liberty Institute, Kennedy simply wants to be back doing what makes him happy.

Attorney Berry believes the coach’s case could determine the limits of the First Amendment in public schools when it comes to prayer.

“When the government puts you in a position where you have to choose between your faith and your job, that’s something that no American should ever have to experience,” Berry said.

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“We’re hopeful that the court will take up this case, because it is an important case that really has the potential to define in this country whether public school employees, such as coaches and teachers and people like that, are going to lose their First Amendment rights just by virtue of being a public school employee,” Berry continued.

First Liberty filed a petition Monday for the review of Kennedy’s case by the Supreme Court.

“The U.S. Supreme Court is pretty much the end of the road when it comes to appealing a legal ruling,” Berry explained. “We’ve asked the court to overturn the decision of the Ninth Circuit and of the District Court there in Washington.”

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Liz is a senior story editor for The Western Journal. A graduate of the University of San Francisco and the Columbia Publishing Course, Liz has a passion for telling stories that inspire kindness.
Liz is a senior story editor for The Western Journal. A graduate of the University of San Francisco and the Columbia Publishing Course, Liz has a passion for telling stories that inspire kindness.
Birthplace
Colorado
Education
University of San Francisco; Columbia Publishing Course
Location
Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
Health, Entertainment, Faith




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