high school football coach in the state of Washington may lose his job
over his practice of praying at midfield at the conclusion of each
Joe Kennedy is an assistant coach of the high
school football team at Bremerton High School in the Seattle area.
For years he has taken a knee at the 50 yard-line after the final
whistle to thank God for the efforts of his players and for their
safety. Kennedy says he was inspired to do so after watching the
popular movie "Facing the Giants."
Now Kennedy has been
ordered by the school district superintendent to halt the
practice. Superintendent Aaron Leavell provided Kennedy with a
three-page letter threatening him with dismissal if he continues his
"While on duty as an assistant coach, you may
not engage in demonstrative religious activity, readily observable
to...students and the attending public," the letter states.
talks with students may not include religious expression, including
prayer," the letter continues. "They must remain entirely secular
in nature, so as to avoid alienation of any team member."
further violations will be grounds for discipline, up to and including
discharge from District employment," the letter concludes.
State Schools Superintendent Randy Dorn also took issue with Kennedy's
actions. Dorn says Kennedy's conduct could be seen as
"exclusionary" and be "distressing" to some of the players. He
went so far as to suggest that Kennedy was a poor role model for his
Kennedy, who served as a combat veteran in the Marines,
says he will continue to offer prayers after his team's games. "I
spent twenty years in the military fighting to defend the
Constitution. All of a sudden I realize that people who work for
the public schools don't have the same constitutional rights as
everybody else has."
"I'm not a guy who hides in a corner
and does a secret prayer to God. I'm very open about my faith
everywhere I go. I'm standing up for what I believe is
right. I'm going to keep on praying."
Kennedy did just that
after the team's game on Friday night, October 16th, which was the
school's homecoming. He urged his players to stay on the sidelines
so he could not be accused of coercing them to pray with him.
he opened his eyes following his post-game prayer, he found himself
surrounded by the opposing team and their fans, who joined him in the
Kennedy has decided to take the school district to
court to protect his constitutional right to the free exercise of
religion. He is demanding that school officials provide him with
the same kind of religious accommodations that the U.S. Supreme Court
has upheld for other employees with religious convictions.
Sasser, legal counsel for the Liberty Institute, says that the school
district's policy is a blatant example of unconstitutional government
hostility to religion.
"When you tell a coach that he cannot
silently pray at the 50 yard-line, there's no greater message of
hostility than that. This is not a school being neutral.
This is a school being hostile to religion--and we are going to hold
Tony Dungy, the highly regarded former NFL
coach and now football commentator, applauded Joe Kennedy's
courage. "I appreciate Coach Kennedy staying true to his
convictions. Glad I never faced anything like this in my career."
You can sign a letter of support to Coach Kennedy by using this link:Support Coach Kennedy