The school board in Bremerton, Washington, now has a cause to respect the First Amendment.
Two million reasons, to be precise. This is the amount of a settlement with Joe Kennedy, the former high school football coach who was fired seven years ago for praying on the field. Kennedy filed a lawsuit and won, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The school board accepted a nearly $2 million settlement on March 6, and the court ordered the school system to give him back his employment by this month in October 2022.
In addition, the district has agreed to reimburse Kennedy’s $1.77 million in legal expenses.
The payout, legal expenses, job, and most significantly, the opportunity to resume praying on the football field are all awarded to Kennedy.
Such a nation! Except for the fact that this absurdity started in the first place.
KCPQ-TV said that it began in 2008, when Kennedy began coaching at Bremerton High School. Following each game, the Christian coach would pray alone at the 50-yard line.
Students began to join him in prayer, and he finally began giving speeches on religious topics. Also, students engaged in locker room prayer.
After years of doing so, the school district requested that Kennedy cease. Yet, he continued to pray from the 50-yard line towards the end of the game.
The administrators of the school worried a lawsuit for impeding the religious freedom of the children, knowing that they wouldn’t conceal their eyes but would see a man of God addressing his Creator.
Without recognizing the irony, the school informed Kennedy that he could not kneel and pray on the football field while “on duty.” Kennedy responded by ignoring the instruction and continuing to pray.
The school system placed him on leave with pay.
Kennedy brought the case to court, just like the apostle Paul did with Caesar. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in June 2022 that the coach could continue his on-field prayers.
The Seattle Times stated that the 6-3 vote followed party lines, with Republican-appointed judges in the majority and Democratic-appointed justices in the minority.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the majority said: “The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.”
Gorsuch ruled that the public did not hear the prayers, students were not obliged to participate, and since Kennedy prayed after the conclusion of the game, his pupils “were otherwise occupied.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, stating that the Constitution neither requires nor authorizes school authorities to pray “at the center of a school event.”
“Official-led prayer strikes at the core of our constitutional protections
for the religious liberty of students and their parents,” she said.
The ruling in favor of Kennedy, according to Sotomayor “elevates one individual’s interest in personal religious exercise, in the exact time and place of that individual’s choosing, over society’s interest in protecting the separation between church and state.”
Sotomayor appears to have sought to bolster the minority’s claim by providing a photograph of Kennedy with his helmet up, surrounded by scores of kneeling teammates who are praying.
All of this reminds me of what they’ve stated at the Flying W Ranch, a long-standing attraction in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with a large chuck wagon meal and cowboy music.
Before a Flying W dinner, a guy grabs the microphone and proclaims, “We always pray before we eat. If you do not pray, that is acceptable.
“It won’t hurt you none.”
I am convinced that Kennedy will begin mid-field praying upon his return to Bremerton High School as an assistant football coach. Regardless of what dissidents on the Supreme Court say, his prayers will not damage the pupils.
At the present day, it will be of enormous assistance to them. And I believe many of them are aware of this as well.