HS football coach fired for praying with players wins massive settlement, will return to coaching

Sometimes, the good guy does win… though it may take a little time.

Joseph Kennedy, the high school football coach who was placed on administrative leave in 2015 for taking a knee with student athletes and praying on the field of play after games, has reached a nearly $2 million settlement with the school district, according to the Daily Mail.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of the coach last summer, ruling that his right to pray with student athletes on the field was protected by the Constitution.

Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the 6-3 majority opinion which said Kennedy’s prayers were a private matter and did not amount to the school district’s endorsement of Christianity.

“Respect for religious expressions is indispensable to life in a free and diverse republic – whether those expressions take place in a sanctuary or on a field, and whether they manifest through the spoken word or a bowed head,” Gorsuch wrote. “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.”

On Thursday, the board of Bremerton School District in Washington state voted unanimously to approve the $1,775,000 settlement payment and Kennedy will return as an assistant football coach for Bremerton High School for the 2023 season, receiving a stipend of $5,304 for the season, the Daily Mail reported, citing a district statement.

“It is just incredible to know that I did nothing wrong. Everything I did was fine,” Kennedy said after the verdict.

Bremerton School District board president Alyson Rotter said they were eager to move “past the distraction.”

“We look forward to moving past the distraction of this nearly 8-year legal battle so that our school community can focus on what matters most: providing our children the best education possible,” she said in a statement, according to the Daily Mail.

As noted in the article, Kennedy started coaching at the school in 2008 and began praying alone on the 50-yard line at the end of games. In time, students began joining him and he also led students in locker room prayers.

All of this was without incident until 2015 when someone complained to the school district that some student athletes felt pressured to join in the prayers. The district asked Kennedy to stop out of fear the district could be sued for violating students’ religious freedom rights. He agreed to stop the locker room prayers but would not stop praying after the games and was placed on leave. When his contract was up the district failed to renew it, citing his refusal to follow district policy.


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