Court Battles

Praying football coach who won Supreme Court case resigns

Joe Kennedy, a high school football coach who was the subject of a high-profile Supreme Court case after he lost his job for praying following games, announced his resignation from his position Wednesday, less than a week after his first game back on the sidelines.  

Kennedy, who served as an assistant coach for the Bremerton (Wash.) High School football team, made the announcement on his website, citing several reasons, including taking care of an ailing family member. 

Kennedy said he didn’t know if he’ll continue to pursue his coaching career. 

“I believe I can best continue to advocate for constitutional freedom and religious liberty by working from outside the school system so that is what I will do,” Kennedy wrote on his website.  “I will continue to work to help people understand and embrace the historic ruling at the heart of our case.”

The Bremerton School District (BSD) confirmed Kennedy’s departure in a statement to The Hill. The district declined to further comment on the reason for his resignation. 

“The District has received Mr. Kennedy’s resignation and it is pending board approval at tomorrow’s regularly scheduled meeting,” the statement read. “The District does not comment on personnel matters, so we will not be issuing any further statements.”

Kennedy’s resignation comes a year after the Supreme Court sided with him in a 6-3 decision after the Seattle-area school district reprimanded him for leading postgame prayers on the football field’s 50-yard line.

The BSD placed Kennedy on administrative leave in 2015 after school officials asked him to keep his postgame praying ritual nondemonstrative or apart from students. It cited concerns that his postgame ritual would suggest government endorsement of religion, in violation of the separation of church and state.

Kennedy later filed a lawsuit alleging that the school district violated his First Amendment speech and religious rights in disciplining him for what he depicted as a form of private religious expression. 

The Supreme Court’s decision reversed several lower court rulings on the matter, as a federal district court in Washington and a three-judge panel in a San Francisco-based appeals court had sided with the school in the case. These decisions led to Kennedy taking his case to the Supreme Court.

Kennedy, who currently lives in Florida, prayed alone at midfield for about 10 seconds after Bremerton’s 27-12 season-opening win Friday, which was the first game he had coached in more than seven years.

The Associated Press contributed.

Updated at 12:29 pm.

Tags Joe Kennedy Joe Kennedy Religion Seattle Supreme Court of the United States Washington