Joe Kennedy is the man who used to be a beloved football coach at Bremerton High School in Washington State. He became known for praying on the midfield line after games.
At first, he did so on his own, simply reciting a post-game prayer while alone in the middle of the field. But others saw him and loved the idea. So students started joining him.
The school told him to stop, but he didn’t, instead praying with all those that wanted to join him in a stunning display of Christian faith and bravery. Things culminated in people storming the field to pray with and support him after the school had told him to stop and he decided to keep praying.
And so he was put on leave in 2015., Mr. Kennedy bravely took his battle to the court system, deciding to run the issue all the way up to the Supreme Court rather than give up and let the school system punish him for his faith.
And that’s exactly what he did. He battled the decision in the courts until it reached SCOTUS, where he won, with the court ruling, over the summer of 2022, that:
“Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance doubly protected by the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment. And the only meaningful justification the government offered for its reprisal rested on a mistaken view that it had a duty to ferret out and suppress. Religious observances even as it allows comparable secular speech. The Constitution neither mandates nor tolerates that kind of discrimination.“
That part of the opinion was written by Justice Gorsuch, but other conservative justices said much the same thing.
Justice Thomas, for example, asked whether Coach Kennedy would have been fired had he taken a knee to protest racism on the field.
Justice Alito quizzed the school over whether he would have been criticized for other political activism, saying “when Coach Kennedy went out to the center of the field … all he did was to wave a Ukrainian flag. Would you have fired him?”
Well, Coach Kennedy didn’t just win a hollow victory in court. According to court documents reported on by Fox News Digital, it looks like Coach Kennedy will get his job back, can’t be fired for praying, and will likely get his attorney’s fees reimbursed. As that outlet reports:
Per the court documents filed Tuesday, Kennedy must be reinstated to his previous position as assistant coach of the Bremerton High School football team on or before March 15, 2023. The Bremerton School District cannot retaliate against Kennedy for “conduct that complies with the terms of the Court’s Order,” the court documents say.
The district also cannot interfere with or prohibit Kennedy from offering a prayer consistent with the Supreme Court’s opinion.
Kennedy is also entitled to attorneys’ fees and costs, but the district has said those fees will ultimately be decided by the U.S. District Court after an “exacting process.”
So it’s been a long time, 7 years, but now Coach Kennedy can finally start coaching and praying again.