Fired coach back to federal courtroom in legal fight over prayer

Wednesday, January 27, 2021
 | 
Chris Woodward (OneNewsNow.com)

Bremerton (WA) football coach Joe Kennedy prayingAn assistant football coach, fired for defying school officials and kneeling in prayer, is continuing his legal fight in the same federal court that ruled against him.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit heard arguments in the case of coach Joe Kennedy, the Washington state coach who was fired after the 2015 season because he took a knee in brief, personal prayers after football games.

The fired coach is returning to the 9th Circuit, says First Liberty Institute attorney Mike Berry, because he received a “terrible ruling” that First Liberty appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“And the U.S. Supreme Court, although they did not take the case at the time,” Barry explains, “they said that there were some questions that needed to be answered by the lower court before they would be ready to consider the case."

Berry

As a result, First Liberty went back to federal district court and has now arrived back at the 9th Circuit.

"So,” Berry concludes, “we got a do-over."

While the legal fight involves coach Kennedy's dismissal in 2015, the situation goes back more than 10 years, when Kennedy committed to praying after ball games to thank God for the opportunity to coach.

“The school district didn't have a problem with that but, over the years,” the attorney says, “some of his players began joining him at mid-field, and around 2015 the school district told Coach Kennedy, You can't pray with the students or you can't lead the students in prayer. You have to be away from them."

Bremerton (WA) football coach Joe KennedyAccording to Berry, coach Kennedy agreed with that policy but First Liberty says school district officials changed the policy to forbid any religious expression on the football field. That violates the First Amendment, First Liberty is arguing on behalf of Kennedy. 

The coach, faced with threats of punishment, chose his commitment to prayer over the threats.

Coach Kennedy's case gained national attention and he has personally heard supportive messages from prominent sports figures including coach Bobby Bowden, NFL Hall of Famer Steve Largent, and Super Bowl winner Chad Hennings. 

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