High school coach Joe Kennedy is fighting back after being fired from his job two years ago, in a case that promises to set a precedent for First Amendment rights nationwide.
Kennedy had led a 30-second prayer on the field after each football game since 2008, but the Bremerton School District in Washington placed him on administrative leave in 2015, then refused to renew his contract.
Now, he’s fighting back.
Kennedy, a 20-year Marine Corps veteran who fought in Operation Desert Shield, said Monday, “I am grateful for the opportunity to have the court review this case. I fought in the Marines for our freedom. I never thought I’d have to go to court to protect my own. My hope is that, at the end of the day, the court will let me get back to the sidelines and back with my team.”
In 2016, Kennedy filed suit against the school, but a federal district judge ruled against him. Kennedy appealed the decision, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard his case Monday. They are expected to give their opinion within a couple months.
Another similar case happened earlier in December. Below are videos with more details on Monday’s court hearing, and a personal interview with Coach Kennedy.
Kennedy is represented by First Liberty Institute. Jeremy Dys, the deputy general counsel for First Liberty, stated to the Daily Caller News Foundation, “What does the first amendment require? Does it require an employer to respect the religious beliefs its employee and accommodate them where possible? And is it an undue hardship for an employer to allow an employee like coach Kennedy to take 15 to 30 seconds to take a knee on the field and offer a silent prayer? Or does it require them to send them off into the press box or class room or something like that — out of sight and out of mind of everybody else in order for that accommodation to be met? That’s what is in front of the court right now.”
In an interview with the Daily Signal in January 2016, Coach Kennedy spoke about what his team meant to him, and how much it hurt to be separated from them. “It’s ridiculous how attached you get to these kids, and not to be a part of it is really rough,” he said.
During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump got wind of the case and denounced the school for firing the coach.
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