Coach Resigns Following Supreme Court Decision Allowing On-Field Prayer

by Gabriel Martinez
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Coach Resigns After Supreme Court Ruling on On-Field Prayer

An assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in Washington state, who had recently been reinstated due to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling permitting him to pray on the field, stepped down from his position on Wednesday after just one game back.

Joe Kennedy announced his resignation on his official website, attributing his decision to multiple factors, among them the need to attend to a sick family member residing out of state. Prior to his team’s game last Friday, Kennedy, who had been residing in Florida, expressed uncertainty about his long-term commitment to coaching.

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“In order to continue my advocacy for constitutional freedom and religious liberty, I find it most effective to work outside the educational system. I am committed to fostering understanding and acceptance of the landmark ruling central to our legal case,” stated Kennedy.

Kennedy could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday. His spokesperson, Jennifer Willingham, informed The Big Big News that he was en route back to Florida.

In a formal statement, Bremerton School District acknowledged the receipt of Kennedy’s resignation but refrained from further comment, labeling it a personnel matter.

Kennedy initially lost his coaching position in 2015 and embarked on a seven-year legal journey to reclaim it. The school district had requested that he either keep his on-field prayers non-demonstrative or separate from students, expressing concerns that such public displays could imply governmental endorsement of religion, thereby breaching the principle of separation between church and state.

Kennedy persisted in his practice of publicly praying at midfield after games, leading to his being placed on administrative leave and a refusal to renew his contract. Last year, the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Kennedy. Justice Neil Gorsuch noted that “our best traditions advocate for mutual respect and tolerance, rather than censorship and suppression, for both religious and nonreligious viewpoints.”

Kennedy returned to the coaching sidelines for the first time in almost eight years last Friday. Prior to the game, he voiced ambivalence about his return, stating, “The expectation for me to engage in this act generates considerable anxiety.”

After securing a 27-12 victory over Mount Douglas Secondary School, Kennedy walked alone to midfield, where he knelt and prayed briefly. He was not joined by any student athletes or other individuals on the nearly vacant field, although there was scattered applause from the audience.

Kennedy’s struggle to regain his position became a cultural flashpoint, raising issues around the balance between the religious freedoms of government employees and the enduring principles safeguarding students from religious influence. Kennedy was present at a 2016 rally for Donald Trump and recently dined with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential contender. DeSantis requested Kennedy’s assistance on the campaign trail, which Kennedy declined, affirming his loyalty to Trump.

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