Praying Coach Joe Kennedy Reinstated After Supreme Court Victory
By Movieguide® Contributor
Praying coach, Joe Kennedy, has been reinstated at his high school football job after winning his Supreme Court Case last June.
The assistant football coach was removed from his position in 2015 after silently praying at midfield following the conclusion of his games. Although Kennedy never asked or required students to join him, the school fired him over fears that allowing him to openly pray around students would have been seen as a government endorsement of religion.
After six years of legal battles, the case found itself in the Supreme Court, to decide if the had violated Kennedy’s right to free speech when it barred him from silently praying on the field after games, a practice inspired by FACING THE GIANTS.
The court ruled in Kennedy’s favor 6-3, stating Kennedy would be restored to “his previous position as assistant coach of the Bremerton High School football team on or before March 15, 2023.”
“Bremerton School District shall not interfere with or prohibit Kennedy from kneeling at midfield to engage in a brief, quiet, personal religious ritual during the period after a football game in which the coaching staff are free to attend to personal matters,” the court ruled.
“Bremerton School District cannot retaliate against or take any future adverse employment action against Kennedy from conduct that complies with this term of order,” the mandate added.
Kennedy was reinstated to his assistant coaching role on March 6.
Bremerton school district has also reached an agreement in principle to settle the attorney fees of $1,775,000 for the case.
When asked why he would want to return to a district that fired him for praying, Kennedy said, “Yeah, that’s a tough one. A lot of it has to do with the principle of it. I stood up and fought to be a knight, and that meant everything to me.”
“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 continued.
“Even if it’s just for that season it’s just to be able to go back and be able to retire on my own terms instead of somebody else’s,” he concluded.
Movieguide® previously reported on Kennedy’s trial:
It started out as an inspiration from the movie FACING THE GIANTS, to pray after his high school team’s football games. Eventually, it led to coach Joe Kennedy winning a Supreme Court case allowing him to continue to do so after the school board tried to shut it down.
“[There’s a] lot of conflicted thoughts and feelings on it. It’s been so long, it’s been seven years going into the eighth football season. So it has been a long time and it seems weird that it’s actually over. But the best part of it is knowing that God stood by me the whole time,” Kennedy told Kirk Cameron on his show TAKEAWAYS.
Kennedy recounts God speaking to him as a new Christian through the movie FACING THE GIANTS, a movie about a high school football coach who uses faith to inspire his team and face his personal struggles.
“I tell you, you don’t get answers from God like that very often. But man, He came down, smacked me in the gut.” Kennedy continues, “I was on my knees, bawling my eyes out and I’m like, ‘I’m in. I will give You the glory after every game, win or lose right there on the battlefield.’”
The coach initially would pray by himself on the football field after the games, and the numbers continued to grow as members of the team asked him if they could join him. Soon team members from the opposing team would be invited, as well as people from the crowd and even the mayor.
“It kind of evolved over the years and you know, this wasn’t a short process. This was eight years of in the making of that happening until the school district obviously went sideways,” Kennedy said. …
His perseverance paid off this June when the court ruled 6-3 in his favor allowing him the right to pray on the field and allowing him to return to work at the school, which he hopes to soon, but that might not be until 2023 partly because of the football season already starting this year.
Kennedy spoke of the outpouring of support, saying that at one point there were thousands of people that came out to the football field to pray with the coach.
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