BREMERTON, Wash. — A football coach in Washington is under investigation for praying on the field after games.
Joe Kennedy, the assistant head coach for the varsity team at Bremerton High School and the head coach for the junior varsity team, takes time after each game to pray at the 50-yard line. According to reports, Kennedy prays of his own volition and sometimes prays alone, but there are also instances when students and players decide to join him.
“I never asked anyone. They just all showed up one day and the next thing I know, the other team was showing up with us,” he told reporters this week. “I spent 20 years in the Marine Corps, and it’s been about protecting the freedom of other people. It’s about the freedom, and people can believe whatever they want.”
“I’m just exercising my right,” Kennedy continued. “The competition is over and I just thank God for every one of these young men that are out here.”
While it is not known how the matter turned into an investigation, a letter from Superintendent Aaron Leavell outlines that the district is currently reviewing how “staff are trained to learn about and comply with” its religious activities policy.
“The Bremerton School District respects and has an obligation to protect the rights of all students and staff, including those fundamental rights protected by the First Amendment,” he wrote.
The policy states that “[a]s a matter of individual liberty, a student may of his/her own volition engage in private, non-disruptive prayer at any time not in conflict with learning activities. School staff shall neither encourage nor discourage a student from engaging in non-disruptive oral or silent prayer or any other form of devotional activity.”
The investigation is set to conclude this week. In the meantime, a support rally has been set for Friday at Bremerton High School.
Some parents state that they don’t see a problem with the prayers as long as students are not required to join Kennedy.
“It’s American. It’s freedom of religion, not freedom from religion,” one parent told local television station KING. “If they don’t like it, they can [choose] not to participate.”