High school football coach banned from praying says he will continue anyway

by christiannewsjournal
Joe Kennedy

BREMENTON, Wash. — High school coach Joe Kennedy announced he will continue to pray personally after football games despite a school district ordering him to stop or face possible termination.

In September the Bremerton High School sent a letter to Kennedy ordering him to stop praying after football games.

Liberty Institute told the Bremerton school district Wednesday (Oct. 14) that their demands are unconstitutional.

Liberty Institute asked the school district to rescind their ban on Coach Kennedy’s prayer by October 16 at 5:00 pm, in order to allow the coach to continue to pray after the homecoming game that evening. Coach Kennedy says he will exercise his constitutional right to pray privately, regardless of the school’s response.

“I love my players. It’s an honor to work with them and teach them about good sportsmanship and teamwork,” said Coach Joe Kennedy. “I hope the school district will allow me to continue working with these kids – and thanking God for them.”

Coach Joe Kennedy is head coach for the Bremerton High School junior varsity football team and assistant coach for the varsity team. In 2008, Coach Kennedy saw the movie Facing the Giants which inspired him to begin thanking God for his players after the games.

Since 2008, Coach Kennedy has walked alone to the 50-yard line and prayed a short prayer, thanking God for his players, their safety, and their spirited competition. Coach Kennedy did not announce what he was doing and did not invite anyone to join him.

After a few games, some students asked if they could be there while Coach Kennedy prayed. He said, “It’s a free country, you can do whatever you want.” Since then, students have often voluntarily come to the 50-yard line after the game where the coach was praying. Players from the opposing team join them occasionally.

For seven years no students, coaches, or parents have ever complained about the prayer.

Nevertheless, the Bremerton School District ordered Coach Kennedy to stop praying after the game, or even bowing his head or being physically present where students may be praying.

“Federal law requires the school district to allow Coach Kennedy to pray privately after the football game,” said Hiram Sasser, deputy legal counsel at Liberty Institute. “We hope they will do the right thing by following the law and allowing Coach to pray.”

Liberty Institute attorneys say they will take legal action against the Bremerton School District if they do not rescind the ban on the Coach’s prayer before homecoming on Friday night.

“As an alumnus of the Bremerton School District, I am proud of the education I received. However, the District should check its homework and come back with a correct answer,” Counsel Anthony J. Ferate noted.

Kennedy says he will pray after the homecoming game regardless of the school district’s response.

“I’m not a guy who hides in a corner and does a secret prayer to God,” the coach told Todd Starnes, Fox news. “I’m very open about my faith everywhere I go.”

— by CNJ staff

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