Dori: ‘Just want to coach again’ says Bremerton coach after Supreme Court victory

Jun 28, 2022, 4:06 PM | Updated: Jun 29, 2022, 9:07 am
Photo by Win McNamee...
Photo by Win McNamee

What started as a prayer of thanks on a Kitsap County football field has now ended as a prayer of thanks in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, for former Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joseph Kennedy.

The high court’s ruling on Monday was 6-3 in his favor, which caps a case involving Kennedy’s practice of praying at the 50-yard line at the end of his team’s games. The case grew when players would join him in prayer. Bremerton School District asked Kennedy to stop out of fear that the district could be sued for violating students’ religious rights. Kennedy told Dori he agreed to stop the gatherings, but the district fired him as a coach anyway.

“[Bremerton schools] didn’t want this fight to begin with,” Kennedy explained. “It had to do with their lawyers and their risk aversion. It just spiraled out of control.”

That’s when First Liberty Institute, a Christian legal group, filed suit against the school district, claiming Kennedy’s religious and free speech rights had been violated.

By Kennedy’s side throughout the lawsuit: his wife – the school district’s human resources director, and his two children who have since graduated from Bremerton High School.

“That’s all I asked for from the beginning: just to be able to be a football coach and to thank God afterward,” Kennedy told Dori’s listeners. The former coach called his prayers a “personal thing” with players who “happened” to join me.

“When the school district said to ‘stop,’ I immediately stopped. But I wasn’t doing anything wrong, and the court has ruled in my favor: you can be a coach and it’s okay for you to pray alone,” Kennedy continued.

“Seven years is a long time to do any battle,” Kennedy said. “It’s been a rough road, but absolutely 100 percent worth it.”

If post-game prayer was so important, Dori wondered, why coach in a public school?

“Why not go to a private school where the expectation is that there is going to be faith at the center of everything they do?” Dori asked Kennedy.

“That’s the whole point of everything,” Kennedy answered. ‘There’s nothing wrong with religion. That’s one of your freedoms. It doesn’t have to be removed from any of the public.”

And has he received an invitation to return to his old job? Not yet, the former coach said.

“I was expecting a call from the school district. I reached out to the superintendent and said ‘let’s have a drink together and celebrate that this is finally over,’” Kennedy told Dori. “I’m just waiting to hear from them and have my lawyers and their lawyers work it all out.”

Even with the high court victory, Dori asked, “why coach in Bremerton?”

Kennedy told Dori it’s because his loyalty runs deep.

“I graduated from there. All my kids graduated from there. All my family still lives there – my mom, my dad, my grandkids. That’s my home. That’s where I live and grew up. I will never turn my back on Bremerton. Those are my guys.”

Listen to Dori Monson weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Dori: ‘Just want to coach again’ says Bremerton coach after Supreme Court victory