Aug 23, 2017

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today hailed a federal appeals court’s ruling rejecting an effort by a public high school football coach in Bremerton, Wash., to pray with students after games.

Joe Kennedy, an assistant coach at Bremerton High School, was placed on administrative leave in 2015 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.

Kennedy filed a lawsuit and sought a preliminary injunction ordering the school district to hire him as a coach and to allow him to pray with players. A federal court in September of 2016 denied the injunction, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today agreed.

"Teachers and coaches don’t get to pressure students to pray,” said Richard B. Katskee, Americans United’s legal director. “Students and families have the right to decide whether and how to practice their faith. Public schools should be welcoming places for all students and families, and no student should feel like an outsider at his or her school.”

Added Katskee, “The court agreed that the Bremerton School District could protect the religious freedom of its students. The school district was on the right side of history and religious freedom, and Americans United was proud to support its efforts."

Andrew Nellis, a legal fellow at Americans United, argued before the 9th Circuit in the case, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. In addition, Americans United filed a brief in the case.