Football Coach Who Was Fired For Praying After Games To Take Case To Supreme Court

A football coach from Washington State who was fired for praying after games reportedly is taking his case to the United States Supreme Court.

The Christian Headlines said high school football coach Joseph Kennedy will be taking his case to the Supreme Court after his case represented by First Liberty against Bremerton School District was rejected by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last Monday.

Kennedy was initially suspended in 2015 by Bremerton School for praying alone after games, which players would join voluntarily. He was then fired by the school. He filed a lawsuit in the district court, who ruled in favor of the school. He then contested the district court’s ruling in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit but they rejected the appeal to rehear the case.

The Ninth Circuit rejected Kennedy’s appeal because he “spoke as a public employee” that prohibits him from engaging in “religiously affiliated actions” beyond locations and occasions designated by the school, which were “school building, athletic facility, or press box” and in the field after the said premises have been vacated by players so he can pray by himself.

Accordingly, Kennedy was sent by the school in September 2015 a letter notifying him that an inquiry was being conducted on District staff’s appropriate compliance to the Board Policy 2340 or the “Religious-Related Activities and Practices” Policy in line with the school’s football program.

The notice cited “two problematic practices” Kennedy has incorporated in the football program, such as “providing an inspirational talk at midfield following the completion of the game” that “included overtly religious references” and even invites the entire opposing team to take part in. The other practice involved leading “the students and coaching staff in a prayer” that players can opt-out of as was customarily done even before Kennedy became the coach.

Overall, the notice then reminded Kennedy of the need to adhere to the policy and of respecting the First Amendment in line with the Establishment Clause. The notice did not forbid Kennedy to stop giving the inspirational talks but to refocus it in line with the football program. Similarly, prayer and other religious activity was not forbidden “so long as it does not interfere with job responsibilities.”

First Liberty responded to the notice a month after by pointing out that Kennedy “never received a complaint about his post-game personal prayers” that he did “after his official duties have ceased.” The legal nonprofit organization also pointed out Kennedy never forced anyone in his prayers.