Federal Court Denies Public School Coach’s Request To Pray With Students

Bremerton High School Assistant Football Coach Joe Kennedy Loses Round In Court

A federal court today rejected a motion by a public high school football coach in Bremerton, Wash., who sought the right to pray with students after games.

Joe Kennedy, an assistant coach at Bremerton High School, was placed on administrative leave last year after he refused to stop praying on the 50-yard line at the end of the school football games. He then decided not to reapply to be a coach this year.

Kennedy filed a lawsuit backed by First Liberty Institute, a Religious Right legal group. He sought a preliminary injunction ordering the school district to hire him as a coach and to allow him to pray with players. U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton denied that order today.

Richard B. Katskee, legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the court made the right call in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District.

“The law in this area has been settled for a long time,” Katskee said. “Kennedy wants to pray with students, but that’s a clear violation of parental rights. Parents get to decide what religion, if any, their children are exposed to, and no public school official may interfere in that relationship.”

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.