Coach Defies School That Demanded He Stop Praying With Players

The Washington state high school football coach who was forbidden by his school district from praying with his team decided he will defy the school.

Coach Joe Kennedy, a Desert Storm and Desert Shield combat veteran, has been praying at the 50-yard line since 2008, and it eventually became a tradition where the players joined him. But Bremerton School District told Kennedy last month that he must stop the prayers so as not to “alienate” any students. Initially, he agreed, but now he’s decided to fight it.

“I spent 20 years in the military fighting to defend the Constitution and it didn’t seem right that I wasn’t allowed to say a prayer with my guys after a football game was over,” Kennedy told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “I’m standing up for what I believe is right.”

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Hiram Sasser, Kennedy’s counsel with the Liberty Institute, said Kennedy will go out to the middle of the field and pray aloud, just like he always has, and if other people decide to gather around him, there’s nothing he can do to stop it. Kennedy’s decision to pray could cost him his job.

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“I really don’t think it will come to that,” Kennedy told TheDCNF. “I really think the school is going to do the right thing.”

Sasser said that while the district says the prayers violate the Constitution, it is actually the district violating Kennedy’s First Amendment rights.

“It’s really clear that there has never been a complaint,” Sasser told TheDCNF. “For whatever reason the school district decided they wanted to censor Coach Kennedy.”

It’s unclear what the school will do, but its previous comments clearly show that Kennedy’s decision directly defies the district.

“Our coaching staff can continue to provide motivational, inspirational talks to students before, during and after games and other team activity, focusing on appropriate themes such as unity, teamwork, responsibility, safety and endeavor,” Bremerton superintendent Aaron Leavell said in a statement provided to TheDCNF in September. “However, talks with students may not include religious expression, including prayer. They must remain entirely secular in nature, so as to avoid alienation of any team member and, importantly, violate the law and our board policy.”

Kennedy made it clear that he does not care what faith his players hold and that he does not treat them differently based on that. He said the prayers are about thanking God for the opportunity to play and compete.

“We are doing something great in our community,” Kennedy told TheDCNF. “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.”


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