Lawsuit For Praying Coach Seeks Job Restored, Right to Pray

Eric Scheiner | August 10, 2016 | 10:44am EDT
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The 2010 Bremerton High School Football Team (screen capture)

( - Lawyers for a Washington state high school football coach, who was fired for praying after games, have filed suit to get his coaching jobs back and are asking the court to rule that his postgame prayers are allowed.

The First Liberty Institute filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma. It seeks to have Joe Kennedy restored to his positions as an assistant football coach at the Bremerton High School (BSD) varsity team and head coach of the junior varsity team, saying his religious rights were violated.

“BSD’s (Bremerton School District) revised directive which purports to ban any ‘demonstrative religious activity’ that is ‘readily observable’ to students or members of the public, is baldly unconstitutional,” the suit claims.

Since 2008, Kennedy had prayed before and after games, and was sometimes joined by students.

The district asked him to stop, but he persisted by silently taking a knee and praying.

The district claimed students could feel coerced to participate in religious activity when they see their coaches lead or endorse it. They fired Kennedy for failing to follow a new district policy forbidding on-duty district employees from any religious activity that is "readily observable" to students or the public.

The suit claims there was no coercion, “In 2008, Coach Kennedy prayed alone. After several games where he prayed alone, some BHS players asked whether they could join him. Coach Kennedy responded, ‘This is a free country. You can do what you want’,” according to the suit.

First Liberty also asks the court to order that Coach Kennedy be provided, “a religious accommodation that affirms his right to offer a brief, quiet prayer at the 50-yard line at the conclusion of BHS football games.”

Associated Press Reports were used in this story.

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