Former Bremerton football coach takes case to Supreme Court after being fired for postgame prayers

On Monday, a Washington high school assistant football coach will take his case to the United States Supreme Court, saying the school system violated his First Amendment rights by firing him after he prayed at the 50-yard line while surrounded by students.

Joseph Kennedy, a Marine, claimed the Bremerton School District infringed on his religious freedom by refusing to let him continue praying in the midfield after games.

Kennedy, then a young coach for the Bremerton High School football team in Washington state, was motivated to pray after seeing the sports film “Facing the Giants.”

In August 2008, after coaching his first game for the Bremerton Knights, Kennedy walked to the 50-yard line, “on the battlefield,” as the retired U.S. Marine puts it, and kneeled to give a prayer of appreciation.

It began with the coach, alone, praising God for keeping the players safe, for fair play, and for spirited competition after the final whistle.

After a few games, though, the number of players that gathered with Kennedy expanded to comprise the majority of the squad, albeit participation varied. At least one parent claimed that their son felt “compelled to participate” because he feared losing playing time if he didn’t.

Soon enough, Kennedy’s prayers, as a Bremerton High School graduate, morphed into motivational speeches with religious overtones.

Kennedy proceeded to pray on the field without incident for the next seven years.

According to court records, the Bremerton School District learned what Kennedy was up to in September 2015 when an opposing team’s coach told the principal at Bremerton High School that Kennedy asked his players to join him for the post-game prayer. Saying he “thought it was pretty cool” the district would allow such behavior.

The opposition coach’s remark sparked a years-long dispute between Kennedy and the school district, which transferred from the gridiron to the courts after the coach lost his job after refusing to stop praying on the field.