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Bremerton football coach can stay, but prayers gotta go

The Bremerton High School football coach will not be fired, but he will no longer lead team prayers. (AP)

The Bremerton High School football coach will not be fired for leading prayers at games. His conduct, however, must change.

Bremerton School District Superintendent Aaron Leavell wrote a public letter summing up the issue and the district’s position. In short, the coach cannot lead prayers with students, whether in a classroom or on a football field.

Related: Bremerton Coach under scrutiny for post-game prayers

Coach Joe Kennedy made headlines when it was discovered that his players joined him in post-game prayers. Students are free to pray as they wish, but teachers and other district staff are usually banned from such activity.

Kennedy’s inspirational words will now be limited to motivational speeches.

“Talks with students may not include religious expression, including prayer. They must remain entirely secular in nature, so as to avoid alienation of any team member and, importantly, violate the law and our board policy,” Leavell wrote.

“Students are free to initiate and engage in religious activity, including prayer, so long as it does not interfere with school or team activities,” he continued. “Student religious activity must be entirely and genuinely student initiated, and may not be suggested, encouraged (or discouraged), or supervised by and district staff.”

Leavell notes the Bremerton High School football coaching staff was well-intentioned, but also that the district is subject to federal laws, and would be open to liability and loss of funding if it ignored them.

The district hired an outside attorney to investigate.

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