Coach Joe Kennedy is back, and he’s suing

Aug 9, 2016, 6:01 PM | Updated: Aug 10, 2016, 3:03 pm
Joe Kennedy, bremerton...
Football Coach Joe Kennedy at a Bremerton High School football game. (Bremerton Patriot)
(Bremerton Patriot)

Now, Coach Joe Kennedy is suing.

Kennedy would pray with his players and opposing players after Bremerton High School football games. The school said you can’t do that. Then he said that he was going out on the field to kneel and pray and if students wanted to join in, they were free to do so. And the school said he could not do that. He was fired for not following the district policy that prohibited him from praying with kids after football games. The district basically did not renew his contract for the upcoming season.

Coach Joe Kennedy has filed a lawsuit against the Bremerton School District.

My view, as a Christian and as a high school basketball coach, is that coaches should not be praying with kids — especially if you are a public school coach. When I sent my own kids to tennis and basketball practice, I would not have wanted a Muslim, Jewish or Satanist coach to lead my kids in prayer.

Coach Joe Kennedy argues that this is America and he should be free to make a public scene out of his prayer, and that the lawsuit is his only option — that the only way to be a coach again is through lawyers. I spoke with him on my show on KIRO Radio.

“They didn’t renew my contract and gave me an evaluation that was all to do with my religious beliefs,” Joe said. “The only way to become a coach again is through lawyers.”

“It’s a really important issue for me because this is a covenant I made with God — before I even started coaching, that if I became a coach, what I would do is give you the glory on the 50 after every game,” he said. “And it evolved to be with the kids.”

Does God need that, though? If Joe stood at the sideline and bowed his head at the end of the game, nobody would say a word about that. Nobody would care. But when you go and take a knee on the 50 yard line as a public showing of your faith, some players may feel that they need to get on the coach’s good side by joining in. Or if a kid doesn’t want to join in, they may wonder if that’s the reason they’re not starting the next game.

As a basketball coach, I can stand on the side of the court, bow my head and pray. I do not take a knee at mid-court after the game. That would be inappropriate.

But this is leading other people’s children. Other families may agree with your Christian faith, others may not. I don’t want government playing this role in my kid’s life. A government employee should not have this role.

I asked Joe why it had to be public. Why couldn’t he do his prayer in private? You know, like the Bible instructs (Matthew 6:5). That’s when his lawyer, Michael Berry weighed in. Berry argues that if a coach wanted to do a more private prayer, they have that right. And he said Joe has the right to kneel on the 50 yard line. Berry said that the government has no right to dictate how a person expresses their faith.

And on that point, Berry is right. The government does not have that right. But as a public school coach, Joe is the government. As a public school basketball coach, I am the government. I don’t want the government imposing any faith, or lack of faith, on other people’s kids.

Dori Monson on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dori monsonTune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 12 noon for The Dori Monson Show.

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Coach Joe Kennedy is back, and he’s suing