Joe Kennedy has been the assistant football coach at Bremerton High School, about 15 miles due west across the bay from Seattle, for a number of years. For the past seven years, Kennedy has been going out to the 50 yard line, kneeing down and offering a prayer of thanks.
In October, school officials claim that Kennedy’s practice of praying at the games came to their attention and they ordered him to stop. However, after the next game, Kennedy quietly walked out alone to the 50 yard line, kneeled and prayed. Without any coercion on his part, members of his school’s football team joined him in prayer as did members of the opposing team and number of fans.
Needless to say, school officials were livid and again order Kennedy to stop praying at the games. When he refused, they suspended him. At that point, Mike Berry, an attorney with the Liberty Institute, got involved and contacted school.
According to OneNewsNow.com:
“One of the things that we did when we were communicating with them was [to ask] for a religious accommodation. We said … The law allows for these accommodations all the time. All we’re asking for is for Coach Kennedy to be allowed to go out to the 50-yard-line after the game is over to take a knee and to briefly and quietly give thanks – and the school district said no. They rejected that request.”
“I think they still have the opportunity to make things right and we’d certainly be willing to talk with them if they want to do that.”
“But if they don’t – if they continue to take this ridiculous stand that there can’t be any visible religious expression by public employees – then certainly we’re willing to use the legal process to vindicate Coach Kennedy and to defend his constitutional freedom.”
Since school officials have refused to back down, Mike Berry and the Liberty Institute are now filing a lawsuit against school officials for the violation of Kennedy’s First Amendment right freedom of religion.
I’ve spoken with Christian attorneys over the past decade and they say that many schools and school districts are either ignorant of laws protecting religious rights or they intentionally violate the religious rights of faculty and students out of fear of being sued or to promote their own personal anti-religious agenda.
The hypocritical aspect of all of this is that many of the same schools allow Muslim students to pray during school hours so they don’t infringe on their religious rights. I strongly suspect that if Coach Kennedy were Muslim and laid down his prayer rug on the 50 yard line that school officials would be too afraid to tell him to stop. But they’re not afraid to trample on the religious rights of Christians, demonstrating the direction America is heading.