If we’ve learned anything from Colin Kaepernick and Tim Tebow, it’s that kneeling on a football field is a surefire way to drum up controversy.
The latest example comes from Washington state where a now-former high school football coach, Joseph Kennedy, is in a Supreme Court battle with the Bremerton School District for taking the Tebow route and kneeling in prayer after games at the public high school where he worked.
After nearly a decade of post-game prayers at Bremerton High School, the school district asked Kennedy to stop in 2015. He initially complied but soon began praying once again and he was placed on paid leave. Then, depending on which side you believe, he was either fired or voluntarily resigned from the school and the team.
“The whole idea of just because I’m working there, I have no rights anymore as an American?” Kennedy said via Fox News. “When do I stop representing the school district? And that’s what we’re kind of asking, just a simple thing: Can I pray after a football game?”
According to the school district, lower courts and the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, the answer is no. The school district argued that Kennedy forced players on his team to pray.
Per Fox News, Rachel Laser, president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which represents the school district stated: “No student should ever be made to feel excluded– whether it’s in the classroom or on the football field– because they don’t share the religious beliefs of their coaches, teachers or fellow students.”
God bless coach #JosephKennedy for being the kind of Godly example to our teens that they so desperately need!
— Tim Burt (@TimBurt) April 25, 2022
Kennedy continues to believe that his decision to pray was an individual choice and not forced on anyone.
“The prayer after the football game — that was just myself, I would just take a knee at the 50-yard line after football game,” Kennedy said via Fox News’ Shannon Bream. “After a few months, the kids would say, ‘Coach, what are you doing out there?’ And I just said, ‘I was thanking God for what you did.’ They asked if they could join. And I said, ‘It’s America, a free country. You do what you want to do.’ And that’s how that kind of started.”
After receiving complaints, the school asked Kennedy, via letter, not to pray on the field or in the locker room. He briefly complied but then began praying on the field once again. He was subsequently suspended and then eventually dismissed from the school.
Kennedy is now suing the Bremerton School District alleging they violated his First Amendment rights when they told him he couldn’t pray on the field. He’s since moved to Florida but plans to move back to Washington and coach, preferably at Bremerton, his alma mater, if the court rules in favor.
The United States Supreme Court will hear his case sometime Monday. Kennedy hopes this long battle over prayer soon comes to a victorious end, but even if it doesn’t, it’s unlikely the former coach will go away quietly.
When asked by players he’s coached in years past why he doesn’t give up, Kennedy told Fox News: “I realized if I did that, I would be going against everything I’ve ever taught these guys. You keep driving until the very end, until there’s nothing left on the clock. I would have been the biggest hypocrite in the United States if I would have just said, ‘Oh yeah, you’re right. This is too hard for me.’ What kind of example would I have set for my guys?”
SCOTUS is expected to issue a ruling in the case of Kennedy v. Bremerton School District some time in late June.
*OutKick.com will have additional information on the hearing and any subsequent rulings once available.
Follow along on Twitter: @OhioAF