Ross: Months after his SCOTUS decision on prayer in schools, where is coach Joe Kennedy?

Sep 19, 2022, 8:53 AM
Former Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy answers questions after his legal...
Former Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy answers questions after his legal case, Kennedy vs. Bremerton School District (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

In a Seattle Times column, Danny Westneat revealed that Joe Kennedy — the football coach who last June won a Supreme Court decision upholding his right to pray on the field after games — still has not returned to his assistant coaching job at Bremerton High School.

And the school is mystified.

The court battle took seven years — going back to 2015.

And right after winning the case last June, Kennedy told KING 5 he couldn’t wait to get back:

“If I ever leave coaching, [I] want it to be on [my] own terms,” Kennedy said.

“You don’t want to be fired for it. I will be on the first flight as soon as they say that I can come back, and I’m hoping for a call today from the school district.”

At the Kitsap Sun, reporter Jeff Graham last week quoted the spokesperson for the school district as saying they’re waiting for his call.

“We are ready to do what the court has directed and hire him as an assistant football coach, [but] we haven’t heard from him. We don’t even know if he’s in Washington and do not know what his plans are.”

Well, Danny Westneat found out where he was. He’s been on the conservative celebrity circuit – appearing with Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Franklin Graham.

Some readers didn’t appreciate the implication that he might be selling out.

In the comments following Danny’s column, a reader posted that Kennedy moved to Florida in 2020 to take care of a family emergency, and that he accepted the speaking engagements as a way to earn enough money to return. The reader also said that Coach Kennedy didn’t want the job if he couldn’t pray in the way he wanted to.

I can’t verify any of that. What I do know is that the school district has now adopted a policy on prayer that’s copied directly from the court’s decision: the coach is allowed to take a knee, alone, and pray silently on the field.

And in that KING 5 interview from two months ago, Kennedy said that’s all he ever wanted to do.

“The way it all started was just by myself. It was a moment between me and God, and the kids started joining,” Kennedy added.

“The only thing I would do differently is it would go back to the way it was at the very beginning. It would be a private prayer, and me thanking God for what those guys just did on the football field.”

So then – what was all this for?

He wins his court battle, but instead of going back to a job he loves, he’s become a symbol for people who want public prayer on school property, even though the decision only upholds his right to pray silently, alone.

I did notice that the coach is prominently featured on the website of First Liberty Institute – the Christian legal organization which represented him – on a page that includes a donation button.

So maybe at least somebody came out ahead.

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Ross: Months after his SCOTUS decision on prayer in schools, where is coach Joe Kennedy?