Missouri Family E-News

November 3, 2015

High School Football Coach Suspended for Praying

The Washington high school football coach who has come under fire for praying at midfield at the conclusion of his team's games has now been suspended by the school district.

Coach Joe Kennedy has been placed on paid administrative leave by officials in the Bremerton School District in suburban Seattle.

Kennedy had been instructed by the school district superintendent to put an end to his longtime practice of taking a knee for prayer at the 50 yard-line after high school football contests.

Kennedy decided to defend his constitutional rights to the free exercise of religion, and to continue to thank God for his players and their safety after the final play of each game.

Now, he has received a letter from Superintendent Aaron Leavell informing him that he may not participate in any capacity in the program activities of the high school football team.

"You violated [my] directives by engaging in overt, public and demonstrative religious conduct while still on duty as an assistant football coach."

In a public statement, the district said that Kennedy's conduct put the district at risk of violating "the federal and state constitutional rights of students and others."  The statement did not explain what those rights are or how they would be violated.

Leavell's previous directive had made clear that Coach Kennedy could only offer prayers in a private area where he could not be seen by players, students, parents, or patrons of the district.

Kennedy has now been banished to the bleachers, and he says it is "one of the hardest things I have done."  "I'm used to being beside the players, listening to them.   It's tough when my guys are in the locker room and I've got to be out here."

Following last Friday's game, several of the players walked over the stands to give Kennedy a hug.  Kennedy joined in prayer with surrounding fans in the stands.

Kennedy's mid-field prayers have generally been brief and not an occasion for proselytizing.  For example:  "Lord, I thank you for these kids and the blessing you've given me with them.  We believe in the game, we believe in competition, and we can come into the game as rivals and leave as brothers."

Kennedy will be filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in an attempt to preserve his First Amendment rights.   He will be asserting that the high school is violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by failing to accommodate his religious convictions.

"I'm willing to take this as far as it goes to defend the rights of our Constitution,"  Kennedy has said.  "If you believe in something, you stand up for it."

Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus have sent a joint letter to officials in the Bremerton School District deploring their actions.

"Members of Congress have a longstanding tradition of opening legislative sessions with prayer...and Coach Kennedy should have the same freedom to pray after his team's game," the letter concluded.

Coach Kennedy says he has always had one central goal as an assistant coach for the football team.  "We are building our kids up and sending the right message about what the sport is really about, which is making better men out of them."

If you not already done so, you can send a message of support to Coach Kennedy by using this link:
Support Coach Kennedy 

Listen to the Broadcast Version of the Jeff City Update online at 

ACLU Makes Case
for Public Indecency
in Federal Lawsuit
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit in federal court in Missouri seeking to strike down a Springfield city ordinance regulating public indecency.  The litigation demands that women be allowed to bare their breasts in public. 

The lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a radical activist group in Springfield that goes by the name "Free the Nipple."  They claim that ordinances like that in Springfield which prohibit exposure of the female breast "subject women to inferior legal status" and criminalize their right to "free expression."

The plaintiffs contend that the Springfield public indecency law violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  They contend the law is discriminatory "by criminalizing identical conduct if it is engaged in by a woman or girl while a the same time leaving the same conduct by a man or boy unregulated and without sanction."

The legal campaign by the ACLU to legitimize partial nudity in public is a response to recent action by the Springfield City Council.  In September, the Council enacted an ordinance that strengthened the city's ban on public indecency.

The Council's action came following "topless rallies" held in Park Central Square in downtown  Springfield in August demanding "gender equality" in the area of public exposure.  Shirtless female protesters claimed, as the lawsuit states, that public indecency laws reflect "double standards...stereotypes...and hypersexualization" of the female upper body designed to "censor" female breasts.

The ACLU complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Springfield, is of great significance in a culture where societal standards of morality are being increasingly discarded.  Laws intended to uphold those moral standards are more and more being invalidated by activist judges in the state and federal courts who have no respect for constitutional law or the will of the people.   

Numerous municipalities in Missouri have laws regulating public nudity with language very similar to that contained in the Springfield public indecency ordinance.  If a federal court were to rule that the Springfield law is unconstitutional, it would threaten all laws in the state of Missouri which prohibit individuals from appearing nude in public.

The obnoxious federal lawsuit comes against the backdrop of a nasty recall campaign being mounted by the "Free the Nipple" crowd against Springfield City Council member Justin Burnett.  The "topless rights" advocates have targeted Burnett because he was the sponsor of the strengthened version of the public indecency ordinance.

Burnett was elected to the City Council in the spring, running on a campaign of "fiscal conservatism, public safety, and family values."  He has been an avowedly Christian member of that body, articulating the conservative social viewpoints of families residing in the Ozarks.  
Councilman Burnett says he introduced the ordinance after being contacted by "dozens of moms, dads, and grandparents.  I'm saddened they decided to protest dowtown in a topless way that offended so many families." One of the rallies was held at the same time as an ArtWalk, which draws many families that include middle-school and high-school students.

Burnett has been harshly lampooned by liberal and atheist forces for his efforts earlier this year to post the national motto ("In God We Trust") in the city council chambers.  Burnett's initiative was similar to that taken by over 70 cities and counties in Missouri, particularly in the southwest part of the state.  Now his critics are enraged that he is attempting to maintain decency in public settings.

In an incredible display of reckless conduct, Springfield Mayor Robert Stephens is taking issue with the recently passed ordinance.  In a letter to the Council, the Mayor states his opinion that the ordinance may violate the equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

Mayor Stephens opines that the ordinance discriminates against females "not because of any established legal principle, but because of cultural beliefs."  The Mayor then somehow crassly compares those "cultural beliefs" to the "separate but equal" policies of racial discrimination.

We will keep you posted on the progress of the ACLU lawsuit which has substantial implications for the entire state.  In the meantime, we would ask that you extend your encouragement to Councilman Burnett.  Justin continues to face an onslaught of hostile vilification for standing up for Christian principles in public service.

We need more officeholders like Justin Burnett who are unafraid to speak out in defense of Godly values and moral standards, and in this case basic principles of human decency.  Please be praying for him, and send him a message letting him know you are doing so.  His email address is jgburnett@springfieldmo.gov

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