Joe Kennedy, the persecuted Christian who was a high school football coach in Washington State who was fired for praying at games with the voluntary participation of many team members, has finally finished his legal saga and achieved a massive victory for religious liberty in America.
That’s because Coach Kennedy now has, after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of him in August 2022, finally reached a $2 million settlement with the school board behind his unjust termination and will now be reinstated as a coach.
The Supreme Court found in August of last year that the First Amendment protected his right to pray on the field and then a court ruled in October 2022 that the Bremerton School District in Washington State, the one that fired him, must hire him back by March 2023. Bremerton High School posted a statement to its website on March 6th in which it said that he would be an assistant coach for the 2023 football season. That statement said:
“Mr. Kennedy will be an assistant football coach for Bremerton High School for the 2023 season. Mr. Kennedy has completed human resources paperwork and we are awaiting the results of his fingerprinting and background check. Mr. Kennedy will need to complete all training required by WIAA.”
The statement added, “As with any other assistant coach, Mr. Kennedy will be included in coaching staff communication and meetings, spring football practice and other off-season football activities.”
Further, Fox 13 reports that “On March 6, the district announced it reached an agreement to settle Kennedy’s attorney fees for $1,775,000. The settlement will be presented to the school board on March 16, where they need to approve it.”
So Coach Kennedy is getting a nearly $2 million settlement, is getting his old job back, and will finally get back to being a coach again. Rev. Franklin Graham cheered Coach Kennedy’s reinstatement in a post on Facebook, saying:
I am glad to hear that Joe Kennedy has finally been reinstated as a football coach at the Washington state high school he was dismissed from for praying on the field after games back in 2015. His case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where last summer justices made a 6-3 ruling in his favor. Coach Kennedy said, “I am incredibly grateful to the Supreme Court, my fantastic legal team, and everyone who has supported us. I thank God for answering our prayers and sustaining my family through this long battle.” This is great news! I hope that Coach Kennedy will continue to kneel in prayer—on and off the field—and that this win will protect and encourage others in the same situation!
Watch Coach Kennedy discuss religious liberty here:
Coach Kennedy, for his part, described his long legal battle and eventual victory in an incredibly powerful New York Post op-ed, which he ended by saying:
Through it all, I got a lot of attention, but it sucked. I didn’t want to be known as the Praying Coach. I wanted to be known as a Marine and a good football coach. On the upside, the Constitution means everything to me. As a Marine, I swore to defend the Constitution. But I did not expect to be doing it as a civilian.
On June 27 this year, I was in my lawyer’s office in Dallas because we all knew that the Supreme Court decision was about to come down. Everyone was glued to the Supreme Court website, where decisions get announced. Then my lawyer said, “It’s there!”
All of a sudden everyone was jumping up and down, hugging each other, giving high fives. The Supreme Court ruled in our favor! I raised my arms in the air, as if I was calling a touchdown. Afterward, we did interviews until midnight. It wasn’t until a few days later that I went out for a celebratory steak dinner with my family.
Now I’m sitting tight, hoping for the school to call me back to coach. [Right after the ruling, a school district spokesperson told the Seattle Times that “it could not confirm” whether Kennedy would be reinstated.] I’m just eager to sit down and talk to the other coaches about who will be playing what positions in September. That is the only thing I want. I don’t even want back pay. I’m happy to have my religious rights and not to have to leave them behind whenever I go to the field. Hopefully, everybody’s religious rights will now be respected. I don’t think anyone — regardless of their religion — should fear praying in public. The First Amendment doesn’t only apply to some Americans. It applies to all of us.
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