A Bremerton, Washington high school football coach who lost his job in 2015 for praying on the field, will be reinstated in his same position no later than March 15, 2023, according to a Western District of Washington judge.
In June the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 vote in Joseph Kennedy’s favor, saying his public prayer was protected by the U.S. Constitution. Kennedy has a habit of kneeling and praying at the 50-yard line after games, and often some of his players join him on the field.
“But it’s not just a victory for one coach. The Court struck down a bad precedent, Lemon v. Kurtzman, and set a new one. For five decades, Lemon was a thorn in the side of religious freedom. The legal test it established caused many school officials to suppress any religious observances, leading them to violate the rights of teachers and students,” wrote the First Liberty Institute, which took on the case.
“Because of the Kennedy victory, that’s no longer the case. The Court makes clear that government cannot censor private expression simply because it is religious. This will have a nationwide impact on public-school teachers, employees and coaches, who can now freely live out their faith in public,” the legal nonprofit group wrote.
The details are not final, but Judge Robert S. Lasnik announced Kennedy must be reinstated to his previous position as assistant coach of the Bremerton High School football team. The proposals for the wording of the final order for the case are due by Nov. 8.
“Bremerton School District shall not interfere with or prohibit Kennedy from offering a prayer consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion,” the attorneys wrote in the filing.
First Liberty Institute has also been awarded legal fees to be paid by the Bremerton School District.
This summer, some Alaskans may have met Kennedy, as he came Alaska with Franklin Graham and former Vice President Mike Pence to greet and pray with veterans at Samaritan’s Lodge on Lake Clark, where Samaritan’s Purse has a retreat program for military veterans and their spouses.