The first game of the season for the Bremerton Knights is scheduled for Sept. 1 at the high school football field.
That’s because Coach Kennedy has returned.
Joe Kennedy, an assistant coach in the Bremerton School District in Washington’s Puget Sound west of Seattle, was fired eight years ago.
What was Kennedy’s crime? After games, players take a knee at the 50-yard line to pray.
That’s correct. Coach Kennedy crossed the line by praying in an era of increased gender-bending, propaganda in social justice and identity politics, school violence, dropping test scores, and escalating turmoil.
Except that the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the coach. The court found 6-3 in June 2022 that the school district violated Kennedy’s First Amendment rights and ordered his reinstatement.
So Kennedy is back in the game, literally, and he says messages and phone calls from local fans indicate they plan to attend the Bremerton team’s first Friday night lights.
“I’m a little nervous, to tell you the truth,” Kennedy said in an exclusive interview with Seattle’s KOMO-TV. “And it’s more just because the first game is coming up and … I got to … knock the rust off. It’s been a while.”
To KING-TV, Kennedy commented about his eight-year ordeal to keep his job: “I wish I could say that it was easy.
“You know, looking back it’s been a long road,” he said. “And many heartbreaking years. But, you know, it’s great that it’s finally worked out, but it’s been tough.
“To everybody that’s been supporting me, praying for me across the United States, I mean [it was] millions of people,” he continued. “That’s what’s kept me going and kept me in this fight.”
According to KING, the school district said that it wished to put the incident behind them and that it will completely comply with the high court’s judgment, and that Kennedy’s religious convictions will be treated the same as those of other district workers.
According to court filings, Kennedy joined the school system in 2008 after serving in the United States Marine Corps for two decades. He used to take a knee at the 50-yard line and silently pray. Players approached him and asked if they may join him. “This is a free country,” Kennedy reportedly said. “You can do whatever you want.”
Soon, the majority of the squad would join Kennedy’s prayers, and ultimately, opposition players would participate as well.
According to court filings, Kennedy’s prayers sometimes involved his giving short, motivating remarks, and there were pre- and post-game locker room prayers, which were said to be a practice that predated Kennedy’s tenure.
Kennedy never forced pupils to participate, and his prayer activities continued until 2015 when the superintendent of the school district became aware of them.
Kennedy was ordered to stop what he was doing. So he did.
“Driving home after a game, however,” according to an account in the majority opinion by U. S. Supreme Court Justice Neal Gorsuch, “Mr. Kennedy felt upset that he had ‘broken [his] commitment to God’ by not offering his own prayer, so he turned his car around and returned to the field.
“By that point, everyone had left the stadium, and he walked to the 50-yard line and knelt to say a brief prayer of thanks.”
Following that, Kennedy practiced silent prayer after games, but the school district fired him because they perceived it as the district encouraging religion.
Legal action ensued, with Kennedy ultimately triumphing at the Supreme Court.
When Kennedy returned to the field for the 2023 season, KOMO questioned if the school administration had imposed any restrictions on his mid-field prayers.
“I don’t have any guidance on that yet,” he replied. “They’re still trying to figure that out. I know that I’m allowed to pray after a football game, and that’s what I intend to do.”
Kennedy was queried by KOMO whether he had to take a knee — couldn’t he just bow his head instead?
“I could, but my commitment was, you know, that’s the way I’ve always done it, when I said I was going to give God the glory after every game — win or lose — on the football field,” according to Kennedy.
“That’s my tradition; that’s what I’ll do,” he said. “I’ll be just as good, really makes no difference.
“God doesn’t care, but I want to be thankful. I don’t know if I’ll be able to stand after the game. I might be a little emotional about it and taking a knee might be a good thing.”
So the fight for religious liberty gains momentum with another triumph. Thank you, Coach, and ultimately, God bless.
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