Joe Kennedy is the former assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in Washington. He’s better known as the guy who continued to pray on the field despite several warnings that he was violating the law. In December, the District said they wouldn’t be renewing his contract.
And now he has filed a federal lawsuit against his former District.
To go into a bit more detail, back in September, when Kennedy was told that he couldn’t lead prayers with his team, he quickly decided he wanted to be the next Kim Davis, acting as if his religious freedom was under attack. He threatened to pray on the field anyway, making a high school football game all about him. District officials told him to stop it. Kennedy threatened to sue. Even The Satanic Temple got involved by telling everyone that they had an on-field prayer ready to go if Kennedy went through with one of his own. It was just a huge spectacle all around. And after granting him a paid leave, the District got rid of him and his martyr ways for good.
Today’s lawsuit against the Bremerton School District, filed by First Liberty, claims that Kennedy wanted nothing more than to “pray quietly and alone” after football games. Right on the field when everyone was still around.
Kennedy was praying before the students had gotten out of their uniforms. Before the post-game conversation with the team. Before interviews with local media. In other words, he was still on the clock.
His argument makes as much sense as a classroom teacher saying, “I wasn’t praying publicly during Math class. I did it while the students were turning the pages in their textbooks.”
Let’s put it another way: If what Kennedy did was legal, then every public school coach in the country just found a new loophole allowing them to pray with their teams. Don’t say you were “leading” a prayer. Just say you were doing it on your own, but everyone just happened to join in! Like magic!
It shouldn’t work. What Kennedy did was coercive from the very beginning. Students knew that he was a Christian because he made it clear after every game. If they wanted to get on his good side, they could pray with him. That could be the difference leading to more playing time and all the benefits that come with it. Even if Kennedy denies he treated players differently because of their faith, the whole point is that he shouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place. That’s why public school coaches are prohibited from pushing their faith while working.
The lawsuit says the District violated Kennedy’s right to free speech, free exercise, and his civil rights — discriminating against him, he says, because he’s a Christian.
Please. He wasn’t persecuted because he’s a Christian. He got away with it as long as he did because he’s a Christian.
Kennedy doesn’t want money. He wants his old job back. But he’s shown repeatedly that he can’t be trusted in that job. He sees it as a method for evangelism, not a way to improve kids’ lives.
The District did nothing wrong. The only question is whether a judge will understand that. (And, perhaps, whether this will become the basis for God’s Not Dead 3.)
By the way: Bremerton hasn’t had a winning season in several years. The prayers weren’t working. But now that Kennedy is a free agent, not on the District’s payroll, he plans to lead a post-game prayer after the team’s September 2 season opener.
At least this time it’ll be legal.
(Thanks to Brian for the link. Portions of this article were published earlier)