Praying Bremerton coach garners support from legislators at state and federal level

Oct 27, 2015, 4:44 PM | Updated: Oct 28, 2015, 7:37 am
Bremerton football coach Joe Kennedy prays with players on the field. (AP)...
Bremerton football coach Joe Kennedy prays with players on the field. (AP)

As Bremerton football coach Joe Kennedy continues to defy the school district by praying at midfield after games, he’s starting to garner support in legislatures at the state and federal level.

Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus released a letter to the Bremerton School District superintendent and Bremerton High School principal arguing the threats to punish or fire coach Kennedy are unconstitutional.

The letter, drafted by committee co-chairmen Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) and Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Virginia), explains the free exercise of religion is among the most basic rights of American citizens.

Related: Student reaches out to Satanist Temple for postgame prayer

“The Establishment Clause exists to ensure that the government cannot affirmatively impose or elevate one religion over another,” the letter reads. “However, it does not prohibit the government from referencing religion altogether, nor does it require that government officials proactively scrub all references of religion from the public square.”

Forty-seven members signed the letter, including Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Pasco).

Local legislators in Olympia aren’t to be outdone, however. Both Rep. Graham Hunt (R-Orting) and Rep. Jesse Young (R-Gig Harbor) attended the Bremerton High School football game Monday night in support of Kennedy. They joined him in his postgame prayer.

“We actually put our hands on him and we were praying,” Hunt told AM 770 KTTH’s David Boze. “We being myself, Rep. Jesse Young and others who had joined us from the bleachers.”

Hunt said because Kennedy isn’t sure which game could be his last he’s making a point to communicate how much he values his players.

“If this is his last game he wants them to know ‘I love you and you’ve done a good job,'” Hunt said. “He’s truly inspiring these kids and making such an investment into their lives.”

This kind of behavior should be rewarded, Young said, not squelched.

“As a man that’s served 20 years in the military, he’s served in Desert Storm and Desert Shield, he’s going down to mentor young youth especially in a low income district,” Young said. “It’s the type of volunteerism we’ve really encouraged from the state level.”

Boze argued any outrage is misplaced, considering Kennedy never seemed that worried about whether anyone joined him in his prayers.

“He never asked kids to join him,” Boze pointed out. “He never told kids they needed to join him, and the prayer itself was so nonsectarian I don’t even think that the prayer with the team would violate anything.”

Even a sectarian prayer won’t necessarily make people think there is an established religion, Young asserted.

“We start every day of the legislature in prayer,” Young said. “Sometimes it’s a Christian prayer, sometimes it’s a Jewish prayer, some other faith prayer, sometimes people are up there praying to mother earth.”

Hunt and Young both plan to attend Bremerton’s next game on Friday.

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Praying Bremerton coach garners support from legislators at state and federal level