Praying high school football coach placed on paid leave

October 29, 2015 / Athletic AdministrationCoachingFootball
A Washington high school football coach has been placed on paid leave after ignoring district orders that he not continue his postgame prayer ritual.

Bremerton High School (Wash.)
Bremerton High School (Wash.)

Joe Kennedy, coach at Bremerton High School, had been leading a postgame prayer since 2008, but the district recently told him that the practice needed to stop. Kennedy initially agreed, but then resumed the prayers, privately, by taking a knee at midfield after shaking hands with opposing coaches, according to The Associated Press.

The Texas-based Liberty Institute offered its support to Kennedy, and his lawyers promised to file a lawsuit if he was fired.

From the AP:

“While the district appreciates Kennedy’s many positive contributions to the BHS football program, and therefore regrets the necessity of this action, Kennedy’s conduct poses a genuine risk that the District will be liable for violating the federal and state constitutional rights of students or others. For this reason, Kennedy will not be allowed to further violate the District’s directives,” the school district said in a statement.

The district said Kennedy remains employed by the district and unless his status changes, will be paid through the remainder of his contract term. He won’t be allowed to participate in any activities related to the Bremerton football program although the district said he can attend games as a member of the public.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that student-led prayer at football games is a violation of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment, and public school districts have widely used that decision to regulate prayer at all school-sanctioned events.

The article noted that The Satanic Temple, which has 42 members in the Seattle area, suggested that by allowing the coach to pray, the district “has created a forum for religious expression open to all groups.” The group then requested permission to perform an invocation on the field after the game. The district did not comment on this request.

Click here to read the complete article.

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