As a Christian country, we should be free to pray to God whenever and wherever we want, but that’s not the case as one Christian football coach was fired in 2015 for praying in public and is still fighting the case till today.
Joe Kennedy was a high school football coach at The Bremerton (WA) School District, he was fired for his faith and praying in public. He became a coach in 2008 and promised that he would thank God after every game, and would kneel in the middle of the field and pray publically for years. He said he has been “sidelined” because “the school district that hired me-Bremerton School District, just across the Puget Sound from Seattle-forced me to choose between my faith and my job.”
“Before I coached my first game, in 2008, I made a commitment to God that I would give thanks after each game-win or lose-for the opportunity to be a football coach and for my players. I was inspired to do this after watching the movie “Facing the Giants.” He added, “For seven years, after each game, I walked to the center of the field, knelt, and prayed a brief prayer of thanks. His act of gratitude to God has “cost me the job I love.” Kennedy said.
The School District stopped him from publicly praying in the middle of the field because students and fans could see him engaging in religious expression. What started out as a compliment instead of a complaint from a neighboring school administrator soon turned into a praying restriction for him.
“I was all too happy to comply with this directive and clarified that I would pray by myself. But then the school district issued a new policy, and it said I could not pray where others might see me.” he said until “They offered to allow me to pray only if it was in a place where nobody could see me. It made me feel as if my faith was something I should hide out of shame.” he added.
“I would have given my life defending the religious freedom of any American, and yet that very right was denied to me. That just seemed wrong and unjust.” Kennedy, a retired US Marine said. He is still fighting for his constitutional rights up till today and even explained in his article what he is going through.
First Liberty Institute is helping him take his case forward and sent a letter to the school district reminding them of his constitutional rights. But instead, the district changed its rules, so Kennedy and First Liberty filed a lawsuit. “With First Liberty’s help, I filed a lawsuit against Bremerton School District. We knew it would not be easy. My case started in the district court, then went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
Although the Supreme Court decided not to hear my case at the time, in a relatively rare move, four of the Court’s justices-Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh-issued a statement explaining that my case was not ready to be heard because important factual questions remained unresolved. They then set out a game plan for how the case should be reviewed.” he said.
It’s not easy for Kennedy but he says, “quitting would violate everything I tried to teach my players,” and he also remembered his commitment to God, so he will continue to fight on. Franklin Graham has thanked Coach Kennedy for fighting for his legal right and defending the First Amendment Rights of coaches and teachers across the country in a Facebook post.