It’s hard to keep tabs on what Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy plans to do on Friday.
First, he was leading his team in prayer after games. Then he was called out on it and promised to stop. Yesterday, we learned that he was going to pray anyway, due to bad advice from Christian legal group Liberty Institute.
Since then, District Superintendent Dr. Aaron Leavell issued a public statement reminding all coaches that they cannot pray while working for the team:
The Bremerton School District was notified by a Texas based religious liberty institute today that our assistant football coach will be saying a private, post-game religious prayer after Friday night’s homecoming game.
As the district stated last month, while on duty, our coaching staff can provide motivational, inspirational talks to students before, during and after games and other team activity, focusing on appropriate themes such as unity, teamwork, responsibility, safety and endeavor. However, because of mandatory federal law and School Board policy, these talks with students may not include religious expression, including prayer. District coaching staff remain on duty following games and until players have changed out of their uniforms and have been released to their parents.
When the issues about past religious practices were brought to our attention last month, we looked into the matter and were pleased to determine that the BHS football coaching staff’s conduct was entirely well‐intentioned, but that the District had not provided clear guidance to staff regarding the limitations imposed by federal law. Following education as to those limitations, the coaching staff acknowledged their understanding of the guidelines provided, and agreed to abide by those guidelines going forward.
We hope our coaching staff continues to stand by the earlier agreement and that Friday’s football game will focus on the hard work of our student athletes.
That’s quite the spin, isn’t it? “We looked into the matter and were pleased to determine that the BHS football coaching staff’s conduct was entirely well‐intentioned.” He didn’t say they were doing anything wrong, only that they had good intentions. But we can all read between the lines.
At least he threw Liberty Institute under the bus right up front by suggesting their advice was bad and their legal team doesn’t know what they’re doing. They may think the coach’s prayers are okay, but “federal law and School Board policy” prohibit it.
There are really only two options here: Kennedy can do his job and save the prayers for church. Or he can have his Martyr Moment and preach on the field… and then lose his job. The Superintendent seems to be very clear that he’s not going to remain in his position if he puts the District in legal and financial jeopardy. Let’s hope, for the sake of the students, the Superintendent stays true to his word.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)