Washington School District Places Football Coach on Leave Until He Stops Praying on Field

Kennedy-compressedBREMERTON, Wash. — A school district in Washington has placed a Christian football coach on paid leave for continuing to pray on the 50-yard line at the conclusion of the game, which he did last Friday when both teams and members of the community joined him in a show of support.

The Bremerton School District released a four-page letter on Wednesday night explaining its reasons for placing Joe Kennedy, the assistant head coach for the varsity team at Bremerton High School and the head coach for the junior varsity team, on leave.

“Kennedy’s conduct poses a genuine risk that the district will be liable for violating the federal and state constitutional rights of students or others,” the letter stated. “For this reason, Kennedy will not be allowed to further violate the district’s directives.”

It said that Kennedy will not be allowed to serve as coach until he stops praying on the field. The district had presented Kennedy with the option of praying inside of the stadium in a place whether none other would see him, but he declined.

“He remains employed by the district, and will be paid as such throughout the remainder of his contract term, unless his employment status is changed in the future,” the letter stated. “However, unless and until he affirms his intention to comply with the district’s directives, he will not participate, in any capacity, in BHS football program activities.”

As previously reported, Kennedy said that when he began the practice in 2008, then praying on his own, several team members approached him and asked what he was doing.

“I was thanking God for you guys,” Kennedy recalls responding. “Then a couple said they were Christians and asked if they could join. I responded, ‘It’s a free country, you can do whatever you want to do.’”

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He said that he never asked students to pray with him, but some desired to, including those from the opposing team.

“They just all showed up one day and the next thing I know, the other team was showing up with us,” Kennedy said.

Last month, the district launched an investigation into the coach’s practices, and soon sent a letter outlining that some aspects of his religious expression must discontinue. It noted that Kennedy not only prayed at the conclusion of each game, but also prayed in the locker room with students and staff.

While Superintendent Aaron Leavell acknowledged that “[e]ach activity has been voluntary” and that Kennedy has not “actively encouraged or required participation,” he asserted that the practices were still unconstitutional. He laid out rules so that the district would decrease its chances of a lawsuit, stating that while Kennedy may engage in religious activity, “students may not be allowed to join such activity.”

But although Kennedy agreed to discontinue the locker room prayer, his attorneys with the Texas-based Liberty Institute stated that he has done nothing wrong in seeking to pray by himself at the conclusion of each game. They opined there is neither any constitutional violation in permitting students to join.

Last Friday, Kennedy prayed at the 50-yard-line at the conclusion of the homecoming game, and was surrounded by a significant crowd of supporters as he knelt for a few seconds to thank God for his team.

Nearly 50 members of Congress also signed a letter Leavell this week that expressed support for Kennedy.

“The Establishment Clause exists to ensure that the government cannot affirmatively impose or elevate one religion over another. However, it does not prohibit the government from referencing religion altogether, nor does it require that government officials proactively scrub all references of religion from the public square,” the letter read.

“Rather, the Establishment Clause ensures both that the government does not show preference to a certain religion, and that government does not take away an individual’s ability to exercise religion,” it said.

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  • Frank

    Both entire football teams of that school need to refuse to play until the coach is reinstated fully. As well as the other football teams in that district and state. Time for everyone to make a stand for God and of course for freedom.

    • The Last Trump

      Exactly. Any lazy and indifferent society who allows their rights to freedom of religion and freedom of speech to be so easily taken from them rightly deserves the tyranny they will soon find themselves living AND dying under.

      Alas, truth be told, I think we all can sense that it is already much too late. 🙁
      Jesus promised that we would suffer persecution. And, boy oh boy, the winds of change for Christians are unmistakably & relentlessly blowing! A storm is definitely coming.
      It’s well past the time to get your friends and families to safety folks.
      Time to lead them to “The Rock.”

    • CrC

      I came to say the same thing Frank! No coach, no team!

  • Kay Em Evans

    I have a question – how can y’all be a Christian news site but then have promiscuous photos in ads just below the articles? Below this article is an ad showing women wearing very low cut shirts and their cleavage. Don’t y’all know that sort of thing makes men (and some women) stumble and even fall? My husband is one of those men, and it’s ads just like this that ensnare him when he comes to the bottom of what had appeared to be a benign article from a supposed legitimate news source.

    What these sorts of ads say about you is that your organization values money over people, over Christ Himself, and that you desire to tempt men at the expense of exploiting women. Whether or not you intended to portray that is irrelevant. Your actions speak loud enough to be understood as such. I desperately hope you will change your policy on the types of ads you allow and that you will pay closer attention to the photos attached to them – for the sake of men and women who use you as a news source, including me and my friends/family.

    • Josey

      I can’t answer for this site but I don’t have any ads like you are talking about or I’d say something about it as well, there are no ads on here at all at least not on the page I am on. But I didn’t set my computer up, my son did and he may have them blocked. I hope they are not displaying things like that to pay for this site. That would not be right.

      • Kay Em Evans

        I don’t see it now either. It was up the two times I checked. Perhaps someone removed it, or it’s possible the ads rotate. It was a link to another news-type website. The headline was “This Photographer Didn’t Expect To See This…” above some scantily clad women. It sickened me. I had to say something.

        • Josey

          or someone is messing with the site, seems that happens from time to time.

    • jtbdad

      I don’t see any inappropriate ads but perhaps you do. As a Christian man though, I have to say please don’t blame “ads” for your husbands weakness. Blame him and then help him overcome his weakness. He doesn’t have to click on anything inappropriate, he chooses to.

      • Kay Em Evans

        If this wasn’t a Christian site, I wouldn’t have said anything, because I can’t hold the world to Christ’s standards. But we are called by God, in His Word, to judge the Church and those who are supposed to be maintaining a witness for Christ – Christian businesses are included in that. Paul warned against making other believers stumble. Jesus said if we cause a child to sin that it’d be better to throw ourselves in the sea with a millstone tied around our necks (some parents likely allow their children onto Christian sites just like this, assuming like I did that there wouldn’t be ads like that – it was an ad for another news site, saying “this photographer never expected to see this” as the caption above scantily clad women).

        I don’t think Jesus or Paul took these things lightly. There is something very serious in the eyes God when it comes to His children making their brothers and sisters (or the innocent) stumble. The world doesn’t know any better, but a Christian site should. We will be held accountable for our decisions, yes, and my husband does accept responsibility for his. But if it wasn’t anti-Christ to cause a brother (or sister) to stumble, God’s Word wouldn’t speak so adamantly against it.

        The ad was up two times that I checked earlier (I checked a second time just to make sure I wasn’t mistaken), but it is no longer up. I don’t know if they rotate them or what, but hopefully it doesn’t return.

        • KarlaandTerance Kinsky

          It is not the site. It is your browsing history. Example, I go to Pottery Barn and look at couches…then all of a sudden I visit pages on the internet and boom…there are Pottery Barn ads with couches. It is all based on what you or your husband, or other in your household are visiting on the web. I do not see any bad ads on this site. I do see Pottery Barn ads though. 😉

          • Kay Em Evans

            It was a “related article,” an advertisement for an article on another website.(not an ad to buy a product). All of these links/”ads”keep changing, each time I’ve come on here this morning, so they are likely rotating.

          • LadyFreeBird<In God I Trust

            I don’t see much adds myself. Now I know why.

        • jtbdad

          Your husband isn’t a child. He is responsible for his own actions. Please read the post above that indicates that the ads are not chosen by the owner of the site but are a result of search habits, perhaps that would explain why it shows up for some but not for others. I will keep you and your husband in my prayers.

          • Kay Em Evans

            Strange that it’s no longer showing up for me now either. It was a “related article,” an advertisement for an article on another website.(not an ad to buy a product). All of these links/”ads”keep changing, each time I’ve come on here this morning, so they are likely rotating.

            1 Corinthians 8:9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.

            Thank you for your prayers.

    • http://www.smbelow.com Steven

      You do understand that the ads you are seeing are in response to you and your husband’s search activities. All ads, or at least the majority, on your computer are in direct relation to your search and visit history. They are not controlled or recommended from the owner of the site. The site might open up the ad ability, but not control the content. Ad companies have invested a lot of money to specifically target individuals based on what they might find more interesting.

      What I recommend is a browser add-on called “Adblock.” It’s free and does a very good job at removing unwanted ads. However, you might find some sights will not function properly with it enabled (you have the ability to disable for periods of time). I’ve only found one site that won’t work so far. That’s because they want to force ads. I don’t go there anymore. 🙂

      • LadyFreeBird<In God I Trust

        Never heard of the “Adblock”. Thank you for sharing that. Good to know.

      • Bree

        Not necessarily. I am the only one who uses my tablet and never visit r or x rated sites and see those ads all the time. The ads may change somewhat based on history, but the really trashy ads still appear..

    • LadyFreeBird<In God I Trust

      I don’t see any bad adds on my screen and I’m on a lot. But there is something that says “Channels on Disqus” Disqus is on all these sites some Christian and also others. Maybe it has something to do with that. Maybe we all see something different.

  • bowie1

    What the Washington School District is doing is a form of segregation, by not allowing him to pray voluntarily after the games while he is on the field.

  • jtbdad

    Perhaps I am wrong and I certainly welcome correction if I am, but as I understand it this man is breaking no law. He is exercising his right to pray and compelling no one else to participate. This isn’t an example of school led prayer. By bowing to a fear of litigation the school is effectively punishing this man for exercising his rights. Should I be incorrect please feel free to correct me. I’m always willing to learn and I don’t pretend to be an expert in Costitutional Law.

  • Emmanuel

    Hey coach, plenty of schools that will take a God fearing, moral and a coach with integrity to teach young men what/how a man should act and be like. The godless have no clue.

  • http://www.smbelow.com Steven

    I find it fascinating that a country goes hundreds of years with religion (Christian) being a strong pillar inside the school system–all the way up to my high school experience–only to have this ridiculous generation start spouting “establishment clause,” which is not even part of any founding document of jurisprudence, but egregiously has been misinterpreted and presented as a means of persecution against the Christian and the morals there of.

  • Kandy

    I hope he Blessed by God with a better job where he can Pray if and when he wants to.

  • Dave_L

    Now Satanic Temple of Seattle wants prayer time on the 50-yard line, too

    The Bremerton School District isn’t being anti-Christian or politically correct in trying to stop a football coach from praying at the 50-yard line. It’s trying to stop a free-for-all.

    seattletimes (DOT) com/seattle-news/brace-for-field-day-on-bremertons-50-yard-line/

  • Nidalap

    I hope the parents who believe the same as the coach immediately refuse to let their children play for anyone else! 🙂

  • Dave_L

    From what I’ve read, the coach is claiming his rights as an American Citizen to practice his religion, which even Satanists now lay claim to. I do not see in Scripture where Christians are called to provoke conflict with anyone other than as a side effect of preaching or living the Gospel.

    • jmichael39

      baloney. While the Lord encourages use to go to our prayer closets, he does not forbid public prayers. And from what I read, this guy just started doing it on it own. Never asked anyone to join. And he prays for like 30 seconds…barely a display.

    • jmichael39

      baloney. While the Lord encourages us to go to our prayer closets, he does not forbid public prayers. And from what I read, this guy just started doing it on it own. Never asked anyone to join. And he prays for like 30 seconds…barely a display.

      • Dave_L

        The following parable seems to depict what is going on here.

        The Law says you can toss cigarette butts anywhere you like. The town says you cannot. The smoker says “Oh Ya?” And then starts puffing and flipping cigarette butts anywhere he “darn well pleases”.
        Some others pick up on this and say “well if he can do it, so can I”

        I am not comparing prayer to smoking, but only the framework for the act of defiance.

        The Christian thing would be less bullheaded and more like;

        “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;” (1 Timothy 2:1–3)

        • Frank

          Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednigo, Peter, Paul, all other Apostles, etc..

          • Dave_L

            What is your point? How does it compare to this story?

          • Frank

            Have you not read them? They show to pray anyway.

          • Dave_L

            Are their reasons for praying the same as the team, the coach, and the satanists?

          • LadyFreeBird<In God I Trust

            I love the book of Daniel. I love how Shadrach,Meshach,and Abednigo.How they were protected from the Flames. Their faith was so strong.

        • jmichael39

          While you may see some connection between the idea of tossing cigarette butts on the ground and someone’s constitutionally protected free speech and religious expression, such a comparison is fundamentally flawed from a logic perspective, not even from the perspective of ‘defiance’. Exercising one’s fundamental rights should never be considered an act of defiance. Those who would think to try stopping such expressions of one’s rights are the ones acting in defiance…defiance of the Constitution and of liberty.

          • Dave_L

            I said;
            “I am not comparing prayer to smoking, but only the framework for the act of defiance.”

            It is the same motive of defiance and rebellion that I am questioning. Furthermore if the Satanist, the Coach and the Team are all doing the same thing, shouldn’t we question if it is the right thing to do – since the Satanists are doing it?

          • jmichael39

            And I addressed that if you read my post. There is no defiance when an American citizen choose to exercise their fundamental, constitutionally protected rights. It is defiance of that constitution when someone tries to stop them.

          • Dave_L

            Yes, and the Satanists fully agree with you. But Christians have different methods of dealing with the world.

          • jmichael39

            What sort of logic is that? I’m sure Satanists agree with me that breathing is a good thing. Should I stop breathing because they agree with me ?

          • Dave_L

            If all of the protesters have the same motive, might we question if it is a good “Christian” motive since the satanists “choose” likewise?

          • jmichael39

            Why would it matter what others use as their motives? Satanists use some of the same sorts of logic you do. Does that make your logic bad? No, it’s just bad logic because it is bad logic…no matter who uses it. So judge the motives as they stand alone…not because someone else uses those same motives. The fact that you don’t like Satanists doesn’t make EVERYTHING they do evil. Gees.

          • Dave_L

            Do you consider the satanists to be carnally minded? Do their actions reflect carnal mindedness? How is the Coach’s and the teams minds any different?

          • jmichael39

            So what if they are? Does that mean every thought that comes out of their mind is instantly carnal in nature? Your a Christian and so am I. Does that mean that every thought that comes out of our minds is automatically heavenly in nature? Do you accept every word that proceeds from the mouth of every Christian as being inspired by the indwelling Holy Spirit without testing it under the weight of the Scriptures? I certainly hope not. So why would you instantly reject anything that comes from the mind of a non-Christian simply because it came from the mind of a non-Christian without first weighing, too, against the weight of the Scriptures?

  • Suzanna Brown

    If the coach doesn’t sue the Washington Co. School district, then they will win. They have violated his rights, and the rights of the students and their constitutional rights. I hope he sues them, and recognizes it’s NOT an attack against his students, it’s him standing strong for their (the students) future Constitutional rights that many want stripped from them. The students futures are at stake here, and if their coach does nothing about having his own rights stripped from him than what kind of example is that? In America if we don’t fight for what we believe in, then our freedom WILL DISAPPEAR.

  • Joe Soap

    More christian grandstanding.

    1. He doesn’t own the ground. If the owners do not want him to pray there he can’t anymore than he could on anyone else’s private property. How would you like it if a Muslim suddenly decided to start praying on your front lawn?

    2. He is an employee and as such he must abide by the decisions of his employer. If he cannot then he can resign.

    3. Why does he have to pray on the 50 yard line at all? Can’t God hear him if he prays some place else?

    4. If he sues he will lose. Not to mention it will cost a fortune.