Chris Lange, FISM News
Washington state high school football coach Joe Kennedy will return to the field this spring following a seven-year ordeal over an on-field prayer.
FISM reported in October that Kennedy, a Bremerton High School assistant football coach, had been reinstated to his former position after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor. In a 6-3 decision, the High Court determined that the Bremerton School District infringed on Kennedy’s First Amendment rights in 2015 when it banned him from continuing his tradition of leading those who voluntarily joined him in prayer on the field after games. Kennedy fought back against the school district’s decision, which ultimately cost him his job.
Coach Kennedy recently shared with CBN’s Faithwire that he looks forward to finally returning to the field.
“I can hardly believe it’s happening,” he said. “I’ve fought so long and hard to get back, and now it’s finally becoming a reality. I’m just so grateful.”
Kennedy acknowledged that his joy is tinged with a bit of apprehension, given the very public and polarizing nature of his case. Nonetheless, he has no intention of foregoing his practice of leading his team in prayer.
“It was my covenant with God to give thanks after every game,” he explained, telling the Christian news outlet that he “absolutely” plans to continue his tradition of leading his team in prayer at the 50-yard line after each game.
SCHOOL DISTRICT AGREES TO PAY MORE THAN $1.7 MILLION IN FIRED COACH’S LEGAL FEES
The Bremerton School District confirmed that Kennedy will resume his role as assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in the upcoming 2023 season.
The District released a statement on March 6 announcing Kennedy’s reinstatement for the 2023 season, noting that he is in the process of completing the necessary paperwork and required training.
“Mr. Kennedy will be included in coaching staff communication and meetings, spring football practice, and other off-season football activities,” the statement read.
The district has also agreed this month to pay Kennedy’s accumulated attorney fees totaling $1,775,000.
A devout Christian, Kennedy could not have envisioned the prominent role he would play in the national battle over religious freedom, but said that “[s]ome things are just absolutely 100% worth fighting for.”
In a recent interview with KOMO-TV, the coach was asked why he decided to return to the district where he had been treated so egregiously.
“Yeah, that’s a tough one. A lot of it has to do with the principle of it,” he responded. “I stood up and fought to be a knight [for Christ], and that meant everything to me.”
Coach Kennedy said that he hopes his long ordeal will not only safeguard religious protections but also foster dialogue and understanding.
“I have the utmost respect for everybody to be able to speak their mind, and I just hope and pray that everybody in America starts doing that with each other,” he said.