Praying Coach Resigns After Getting Job Back

Joe Kennedy holding a football
Joe Kennedy holding a football | Image by Coach Joe Kennedy

An assistant high school football coach in Washington state has resigned from his position just one game after returning to the team following his legal victory against the school district in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Joe Kennedy, who was on the sideline resuming his duties as part of the coaching staff for Bremerton High School’s season-opening win over Mount Douglas Secondary School, said he is leaving the team again, citing retaliation from the school district, according to Fox News.

“I believe I can best continue to advocate for constitutional freedom and religious liberty by working from outside the school system so that is what I will do. I will continue to work to help people understand and embrace the historic ruling at the heart of our case. As a result of our case, we all have more freedom, not less. That should be celebrated and not disrespected,” Kennedy said in a statement.

“As I have demonstrated, we must make a stand for what we believe in,” Kennedy continued. “In my case, I made a stand to take a knee. I encourage all Americans to make their own stand for freedom and our right to express our faith as we see fit. I appreciate the people of Bremerton, the coaches, staff and especially the students and wish them all well. Bremerton will always be home.”

Kennedy lost his job in 2015 after the Bremerton School District discovered he had been leading prayers on the field before and after games. He was warned to stop involving students in the practice and complied for a couple of weeks. However, he resumed independently praying, and a slew of spectators decided to rush the field to join him after one game.

The incident allegedly caused a “safety issue,” as many were knocked down in the process, and the school placed him on leave before not renewing his contract.

Kennedy sued, arguing his “private prayer” was protected under the First Amendment. He won his case in a 6-3 vote by the Supreme Court seven years later, effectively earning his job back. However, he has instead decided to leave the position after one game.

The Bremerton School District Board of Directors approved Kennedy’s resignation at a regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday and noted it will not issue any further statements since it is a “personal matter.”

The district has not commented on the allegations of retaliation, but Kennedy’s legal team said it will investigate the situation.

According to Fox News, the coach and his family will now live in Florida, where he plans to help care for a sick family member and contemplate what comes next in his career.

He also said he plans to write a book about what occurred.

“My wife and I decided we really wanted to tell our story and tell it right,” he told Fox News. “There’s so many headlines and click-baits, and there’s a lot of times they try to sell a story instead of the entire picture. I wanted to share with everyone that this wasn’t easy, my life wasn’t easy, and everything that led up to the moment where I did what I did and why I did it.”

Bremerton (1-0) continues its season against Shelton High School on Friday night.

Note: This article was updated on September 8, 2023, at 3:03 p.m. to reflect the board’s decision regarding Kennedy’s resignation.

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