Joe Kennedy, a former Marine and assistant football coach for Bremerton High School, promised God that he would give thanks at the end of every football game he coached. He would respectfully wait for players and staff to begin clearing the field, then take a knee and pray for his players. This prayer, silent and personal, lasted only 30 seconds.
Soon players began noticing this and joining him in prayer after games. This unfortunately drew the attention of BHS administrators. On September 17, 2015, the superintendent of the school district sent Kennedy a letter saying the school district was launching and investigation into whether or not Coach Kennedy had “appropriately complied with the school board’s policy on ‘Religious-Related Activities and Practices.” They concluded that his prayer did not comply with the districts policy. According to the district, Coach Kennedy could “engage in religious activity, including prayer, so long as it does not interfere with job responsibilities,” the activity is “physically separate from any student activity, and students [are] not . . . allowed to join such activity.”
Kennedy complied with these guidelines, distancing himself from players, but they continued to join him in prayer, without any encouragement. Having hired First Liberty as counsel, Kennedy had requested from the district that he be allowed to pray after games privately and personally. However, because people joined him, without any pressure from him, the BHS district told him that he could only pray after games alone, out of the view of anyone on the field.
Kennedy refused to comply with this order, continuing to pray on the field. This resulted in him being put on administrative leave, and not returning to the team for the past six years. After a long hard legal battle, his case will appear before the Supreme Court in the spring of 2022.