BREMERTON, Washington (LifeSiteNews) – A high school football coach who went to the U.S. Supreme Court to protect his right to pray on the field resigned from the job he fought to resume, citing “retaliation” from his school district.
Joseph Kennedy, a Bremerton High School assistant football coach, had prayed on the field without issue for seven years until 2015 when the coach of an opposing team told Bremerton’s principal that Kennedy had asked the coach’s players to join in a post-game prayer, prompting a district investigation into Kennedy’s compliance with the school board’s religious policy.
After Bremerton School District told Kennedy his prayer may not have participation from students, he sent a letter from his attorney, First Liberty Institute executive general counsel Hiram Sasser, to the district informing them he would “resume his practice of saying a private, postgame prayer at the 50-yard line, since such speech would be protected by both the Free Speech Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution.
At subsequent games, Kennedy “waited until players were singing their fight song” after their games and knelt at the 50-yard line to pray with a bowed head, where he was “joined by players from both teams, members of the media and the public.” He was thereafter placed on administrative leave by the school district, which cited a “failure to follow district policy.”
Kennedy’s case eventually reached the nation’s highest court, which ruled 6-3 in his favor in June 2022. The majority determined that ultimately a “government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a personal religious observance, based on a mistaken view that it has a duty to suppress religious observances even as it allows comparable secular speech. The Constitution neither mandates nor tolerates that kind of discrimination.”
Bremerton reinstated Kennedy the following March and agreed to a $1.78 million settlement with the coach. Now, however, Fox News reported that Kennedy is stepping down after just one game, citing multiple factors.
One was the need to care for a sick relative out of state, but another was a “series of actions meant to diminish my role and single me out in what I can only believe is retaliation by the school district,” according to his resignation letter. First Liberty attorney Mike Berry elaborated that Kennedy was not given a locker, team apparel, or an invitation to a pregame meal, and Bremerton’s head coach “told the players to stay away from him.”
“I believe I can best continue to advocate for constitutional freedom and religious liberty by working from outside the school system so that is what I will do,” Kennedy said. “I will continue to work to help people understand and embrace the historic ruling at the heart of our case.”
“They’ve done everything they can to make him feel unwelcome,” Sasser told Fox. “We are going to investigate the situation to determine whether further legal action is necessary.”
The school district declined to comment on the allegations.