Coach Joe Kennedy has vocally engaged in pregame and postgame prayers, sometimes joined by students, since 2008. But the practice recently came to the school district’s attention, and it asked him to stop.
The coach has continued the practice and threatened a lawsuit if the district forces him to stop.
On Wednesday, the district announced it had placed Kennedy on paid administrative leave.
“This action was necessitated by Kennedy’s refusal to comply with the District’s lawful and constitutionally-required directives that he refrain from engaging in overt, public religious displays on the football field while on duty as a coach,” the district wrote in a press release announcing the decision.
Kennedy initially agreed to the ban, but with subsequent support from religious-freedom organization Texas-based Liberty Institute, he resumed the postgame prayers.
The district said in a letter last month that while Kennedy may have had good intentions, he was opening the school to potential liability if he engaged in religious activity with students or was seen as endorsing it.
The letter cited U.S. Supreme Court and appeals court cases, and told him he was free to practice while on the clock as long as he did so away from students or the prayers were not demonstrative.
Kennedy was unavailable to comment on the story Wednesday night, but he did address the subject in a Facebook post.
“Bremerton Knights vs. Sequim Wolves!! Winner goes to the playoffs!! Forget me and come support these incredible young men who will be battling on the field!! My heart and mind will be with them!! Put aside everything else and enjoy their Senior Knight! Go Knights!!!” he wrote.
Hiram Sasser, deputy chief counsel of Liberty Institute, said Kennedy will likely proceed with some form of legal action in the near future. Sasser went on to say that Kennedy isn’t asking to lead the team in prayer, but rather for the right to pray silently by himself at the 50 yard line.
“All we’re asking for at this point is his ability to pray by himself, silently, and they’re still fighting against that,” he said. “I don’t know why they’re so hostile to even just a silent prayer.”
The district made clear that Kennedy has not been fired and will “be paid as such throughout the remainder of his contract term, unless his employment status is changed in the future.”
I watched an interview with this man a few days ago and my thoughts were the school district should be thankful they had a man in their employ that was not harming these kids, or doing any harm to them. He had stepped away from praying with the kids even though the kids wanted their moment of prayer. The parents of these kids should be happy that such a man was willing to bring that team together in a peaceful act of prayer. This school district is not even allowing this man to pray silently by himself. There is something wrong in this nation when God is not allowed in schools yet Muslim children are given prayer rugs and rooms to pray in.Maybe it is time for people to take a good hard look at the schools and their policies and look at the twisted policies our children are having to follow. When God and prayer are not welcome what does that say about our nation? and what does that say about the people shaping our children’s minds?
Signing off, but Never tapping out!