Tags: joe kennedy | bremerton | prayer | field | coach | suspended

Joe Kennedy, Bremerton Football Coach, Put on Leave for Post-Game Prayer

Image: Joe Kennedy, Bremerton Football Coach, Put on Leave for Post-Game Prayer
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By    |   Thursday, 29 Oct 2015 01:14 PM

Joe Kennedy, Bremerton High School's assistant football coach, has been placed on paid administrative leave by the Washington state school district for refusing to stop praying on the 50-yard line after games.

On Wednesday, the Bremerton School District clarified its position on Kennedy in a statement, stating that the assistant coach has not been prevented from praying, but rather asked not to pray on the field because it could be construed as district endorsement of religion.

"This action was necessitated by Kennedy's refusal to comply with the district's lawful and constitutionally required directives that he refrain from engaging in overt, public religious displays on the football field while on duty as a coach," the statement read.

"While the district appreciates Kennedy's many positive contributions to the BHS football program, and therefore regrets the necessity of this action, Kennedy's conduct poses a genuine risk that the district will be liable for violating the federal and state constitutional rights of students or others," the statement continued.

Mike Berry, senior counsel of the Liberty Institute in Plano, Texas, responded to questions on Kennedy's behalf. He told the Seattle Times that the paid leave decision creates a hostile work action and that his organization plans to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

"We're prepared to take the necessary legal actions to defend Coach Kennedy's religious freedom," Berry told the newspaper. "His religious expression is not something he should hide or be ashamed of."

A Facebook page was started back in September in support of Kennedy.

"Bremerton High School football coach Kennedy Joe has been asked to let the students lead prayers and not him," said a statement on the Facebook page. "He has been praying with all kids and coaches, win or lose, on the 50-yard line after each game home or away for the past nine years. He does not force anyone to pray. Let us all show is support by praying with him after the game."

The district said in its statement Wednesday that it had offered Kennedy accommodations to pray privately in support of his religious convictions.

"To date, Mr. Kennedy has not taken the district up on any of these offers," the district statement said. "Instead, his legal representatives have clearly stated in the media that an accommodation that does not allow Kennedy the spotlight of the 50-yard line immediately following games will be unacceptable to him."

"Whatever happens happens, you know," Kennedy said in an interview with the Bremerton Patriot earlier this month. "But I'm going to be bold in my faith and I'm going to fight the good fight, and I want to set that example for every one of the kids if you believe in something."

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Joe Kennedy, Bremerton High School's assistant football coach, has been placed on paid administrative leave by the Washington state school district for refusing to stop praying on the 50-yard line after games.
joe kennedy, bremerton, prayer, field, coach, suspended
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2015-14-29
Thursday, 29 Oct 2015 01:14 PM
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