Football coach who lost job over midfield prayers set to return following court order

Now eight years after a Washington state high school football coach lost his job over his routine post-game prayers at midfield, that coach is set to soon get his old job back — and he fully intends to resume his prayers that sparked so much controversy.

A federal judge has ordered the Bremerton School District to not only allow former assistant coach Joe Kennedy to return to his prior position but also to refrain from any sort of retaliation or adverse action against him in the future, The Washington Times reported.

In a three-page order filed on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik wrote, “Bremerton School District cannot retaliate against or take any future adverse employment action against Kennedy.”

The judge also set a date of March 15 by which Kennedy should be reinstated to his old job and gave his attorneys 60 days to file a motion to recover attorney’s fees from the district.

Joint agreement that Kennedy can return to Bremerton

According to a local media outlet, the Kitsap Sun, the former coach and the district had reached a tentative agreement in late October for his return next year, though some details still needed to be worked out — one of which was the manner in which Kennedy would be allowed to resume his post-game prayer routine.

“Bremerton School District shall not interfere with or prohibit Kennedy from offering a prayer consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion,” a joint filing from attorneys for both sides stated, but added, “The parties disagree on the specific wording of this portion of the injunction.”

It was in 2015 that Kennedy had been suspended, and later his contract was left unrenewed, following a dispute with the district over his routine of saying a brief prayer at the 50-yard line after games had concluded.

Supreme Court victory

Kennedy sued the district for allegedly violating his First Amendment rights, and the case eventually made its way up to the Supreme Court, where the conservative-leaning majority ruled 6-3 in his favor in June, according to SCOTUSblog.

The high court did not accept the district’s claims that Kennedy’s prayers constituted a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s establishment clause, which prohibits the establishment of an official religion or preferential treatment for one religion over another, nor did they buy the argument that students felt “obligated” to participate in the post-game prayers.

Ultimately, the rulings of the lower courts in favor of the district were reversed and the case was remanded back to the district court level for further consideration in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the matter.

Case finally fully resolved

That process appears to have finally played out now, and Kennedy, who had since moved to Florida while the case worked its way through the judicial system, is now preparing to move back to Washington state to return to being an assistant football coach at Bremerton next spring, the Kitsap Sun noted.

According to the Times, after his Supreme Court victory, Kennedy had said, “Thank God and thank everybody that supported me, and I found out that I’m not insane. It’s absolutely true of all the facts of the case, and it just feels good to know that the First Amendment is alive and well.”

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