This morning on Fox & Friends, Former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden was invited to talk about Joe Kennedy, the former Bremerton High School football coach whose contract wasn’t renewed after he continued praying on the field while working. Kennedy sued — and lost repeatedly — but his lawyers are now asking the Supreme Court to consider his case.
Bowden said Kennedy had done nothing wrong, before blaming a lack of coerced prayer for school shootings.
He explained the illegal theory to co-host Steve Doocy:
BOWDEN: Just like I said at the first of the program, by golly, if we’re not gonna raise our children, and not give them good things, and not have prayer with them, or for them, where are they gonna get it? Where are they gonna get it? If we’re going to fire everybody that has a prayer with a team, man, I wonder what’s gonna happen to our young people? It’s — surely everybody sees the problem going on in our schools today. People walking in off a street and killing 11 of ’em. Killing 12 of ’em. Killing two of ’em, and things like that. You know it? I mean, we need something stronger than us to seize this. I think we need to go to the Man upstairs.
DOOCY: Ultimately you would like to see Coach Kennedy get his job back or be able to coach somewhere else. But Bobby, you know how things are these days. We’re in a very litigious society now, and when you introduce religion into things in the public square ultimately there is going to be somebody who may take offense to it. You talked about the two families who asked that you not take their sons to church. There’s going to be somebody who objects to it. So going forward, he might get his job back, but if he does this again he’s going to get in trouble.
BOWDEN: Well let me ask you this, can you do anything without somebody objecting to it? If you do it, some are going to object. If you don’t do it, some are going to object. I believe I’d rather be on the right side, and to me, that’s on God’s side.
Needless to say, school shootings have nothing to do with forcing kids to pray to a Christian God. Maybe we can point to a combination of easy access to guns and a desire for vengeance against classmates (especially girls who ignored you), but a lack of coercive prayers aren’t on the list of symptoms.
Doocy referenced this in the clip, but Bowden should know better than most what the law says concerning church/state separation. In 2015, the Freedom From Religion Foundation issued a report about Christian football coaches imposing their faith on the athletes, and Bowden played a large role in that.
Bobby Bowden abused his publicly funded position of power and authority over vulnerable young men — both players and coaches — to impose his personal religion on them. On August 27, 2014, Bobby Bowden appeared on Fox News to promote his book, The Wisdom of Faith. Bowden admitted to deliberately proselytizing his players with no regard for their belief or the law. Fox News personality Elizabeth Hasselbeck gushed that Bowden “will feel himself a failure if he doesn’t share that message of Christ with others.” Referring to a public high school team that removed a team chaplain after FFRF complained, Hasselbeck said, “But now teams are not going to be allowed — Orange County [Fla.] right now saying no place for faith in football. So that message that you’re giving Coach, is not going to perhaps be allowed on the football field anymore.” She asked Bowden, “what do you think about that?” Bowden responded:
Well, I do it anyway. I did it anyway at Florida State. I don’t care about political correctness, I want to be spiritually correct.
He did not care about the religious choices of his players or about the strictures of the First Amendment — he cared about promoting his personal religion.
Bowden began a chaplaincy at the school, and the idea infected other college football programs as well.
The point is that Bowden was guilty of the same legal violations that Kennedy is guilty of now. No wonder he doesn’t see anything problematic here. Bowden never cared about his students’ beliefs — unless they didn’t line up with his own. If any coach attempted to do the same thing with Islam or atheism, these guys would be condemning them for imposing their beliefs on Christian students.
It’s only okay when they’re the ones doing it.
That sort of thinking doesn’t belong on any football field, much less a public school. At least Kennedy was unceremoniously kicked off his team. There’s no reason he should be invited back.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)