[Rushtalk] A great ruling for America": Football coach who lost job over praying reacts to winning Supreme Court case

Carl Spitzer {C Juno} cwsiv at juno.com
Sat Jul 2 15:30:02 MDT 2022


  


"A great ruling for America": Football coach who lost job over praying
reacts to winning Supreme Court case

Updated on: June 27, 2022 / 2:56 PM / CBS News 
 


Former Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joseph Kennedy
says he is excited to get back to work after the Supreme Court ruled
Monday that his former employers violated his constitutional rights by
reprimanding him for praying on the football field. 

In a 6-3 ruling Monday, the court's majority said that the free exercise
and free speech clauses of the First Amendment protected Kennedy's
prayer time, as he was an individual engaging in religious expression. 

Kennedy told CBS News Monday that he was thankful for everyone who
supported his case and was grateful that it was finally over, calling
the court's decision a "great ruling for America."


"People of faith or no faith, everybody has the same rights and that is
what the Constitution is all about," Kennedy said. "It's rights for all
Americans."

When questioned about students that might have felt pressured to join in
the prayers, Kennedy called the intercessions a "15-second thing."
Kennedy also said that several students who told him they felt
uncomfortable were given full freedom to skip the prayers and no one
received special treatment for joining the prayer. 


'That's America. You can join or you can not join, it's totally up to
you," Kennedy said. "That's an individual liberty and it's just great
that I have my liberty. It's my freedom to be able to just have that
moment of prayer by myself."


Kennedy's lawyer, First Liberty Institute CEO Kelly J. Shackelford, said
that two players who said they would not join in the prayers were made
team captains. 

The former Bremerton, Washington assistant coach began praying on the
field following football games in 2008 and continued the practice until
2015, when he and the Bremerton School District began a heated debate
over whether the practice, which often involved other players and
students, was protected religious expression.

After being placed on administrative leave for violating district
directives to stop praying with the students, Kennedy chose not to
reapply for his coaching position and instead sued the school district
in August 2016. Following a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling
that sided with the school district, Kennedy and his legal team
petitioned the Supreme Court. After turning down his case once and
another lower court loss for Kennedy, the justices finally agreed to
hear the coach's case in February. 


Kennedy told CBS News that he wants his old job back, but he has not
heard anything from the school since the ruling was announced. Once a
coach again, Kennedy said he plans to continue his prayers but does not
know where they will take place. 

The Bremerton School District said it will continue working to ensure it
is a "welcoming, inclusive environment for all students, their families
and our staff."

"I have no intentions of going back and wanting to pray with kids,"
Kennedy said. "It's just wanting the ability to thank God after a
football game."

Melissa Quinn contributed to reporting
 

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