An assistant football coach punished for praying after games is asking the nation's highest court to hear his First Amendment case.
First Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit on behalf of Joe Kennedy in 2015 after he was suspended, then fired, by the Bremerton School District for kneeling and praying after football games.
A federal district court dismissed the lawsuit and an appeal was turned down by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit. A review by the full court was refused.
Kennedy's case rallied the public to his side because he claims he did not lead a team prayer, or join one as a coach, but a lengthy warning letter from the superintendent claimed he was doing so and was violating school policy.
A response letter from First Liberty defended Kennedy's right to prayer on the 50-yard line after ballgames, arguing that he did so privately and it was obvious to anyone watching that he allowed others to join him but did not lead the team in a prayer.
Today, First Liberty and law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
So is legendary college football coach Bobby Bowden.
"We're obviously very honored to have Coach Bowden's support on this case," says First Liberty attorney Mike Berry. "In addition to Coach Bowden, we're very honored to have quite a few other very high-profile friend-of-the-court briefs filed, including members of Congress led by Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and a number of state attorneys general join."
Support has also come from the Texas High School Coaches Association, representing 21,000 football coaches, which filed a brief in support of Coach Kennedy.
"It'll be a while before we hear anything," says Barry, "but that said, we are optimistic and hopeful that the Court will see the importance of this case, what it means for religious liberty across the country, really."