He typically thanks God for the opportunity to play a good game, win or lose, and asks for God's blessings upon the students' lives and their futures. The prayer is usually less than 30 seconds and causes no intrusive disturbance.
He instructs no one to join him but over time many of his students have chosen to do so. One of the joiners is an agnostic who voluntarily supports his coach and teammates as he feels it is an inspirational practice.
However, a few students, including the school president, are dismayed by the school's tolerance of the believers; and they therefore tried to organize a protest. The Satanic Temple of Seattle was invited to attend the game supposedly in an effort to claim the right to express their religion after games as well. This reason given for the protest is nonsensical since there is (or was) no one stopping anyone from quietly praying after games, regardless of religion. Furthermore, if there are any volunteers who might want to join them, they are (or were) free to do so.
It was in September of 2015 that the school district told Joe Kennedy he must stop praying on the school property because there may be a violation of the Establishment Clause. Coach Joe Kennedy, a Marine veteran who knows and has fought for our Constitution of freedom and justice, understood that his rights were being violated; and he sought legal help from the Liberty Institute.
"Liberty Institute is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization committed to defending and restoring religious liberty across America—in our schools, for our churches and throughout the public arena. Often, our help is a last resort for those whose constitutional freedoms and God-given rights have been denied." Mission statement from the Liberty InstituteAfter reviewing the case and within a month, Liberty Institute sent a letter to the school board clearly explaining why the coach is within his rights to offer personal prayers. Two days later and a few hours before the next game, a homecoming game, the school told Joe he was facing disciplinary action if he ever prayed again on school property within sight of his players. In other words, he must hide when he prays.
"BSD does not uniformly or consistently enforce its discriminatory policy. I have observed other BSD employees engage in visible religious expression without adverse consequences.”That night, attorney Hiram Sasser of the Liberty Institute walked with Kennedy onto the field as Kennedy intended to offer his usual post-game prayer. They didn't walk alone for long. Bremerton players came back to support their coach. On top of that, many players from the opposing team joined in a circle around the coach as he prayed.
Coach Kennedy was suspended.
December 15, 2015: Liberty Institute filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for the school's violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“Coach Kennedy engages in private religious expression during noninstructional hours, after his official duties as a coach have ceased. He neither requests, encourages, nor discourages students from participating in, or coming to where he prays. … Under these circumstances, there is no constitutional prohibition against Coach Kennedy’s private religious expression.” Hiram SasserEEOC will decide if an investigation is in order.
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