This one is getting a little closer to home for me. Being brought up in the “buckle of the Bible Belt,” football reigns supreme on a Friday night and our community supports our coaches leading devotionals before the game.
But that wasn’t the case for Joe Kennedy, assistant football coach of the Bremerton High School Knights out of Bremerton, WA.
Coach Kennedy had served as an assistant football coach for seven years (2008-2015), and after each game would walk out and take a knee on the 50 yard line, pray, and go back with his team. He never went out of his way to push his faith on the team, nor did he make a scene by doing anything other than practice his faith in public.
During his first season with the team, some players came out to the field and asked if they could pray with him. Throughout the next few years, this grew to become something much bigger than just Coach Kennedy. As opposing teams and coaches came out to pray with him, even including parents from both teams, Kennedy saw an opportunity to spread the word of Christ. This grew to Kennedy giving a short motivational speech at the end of each game to the student-athletes centered around Jesus Christ and eternal salvation.
It was until an opposing coach felt the need to notify Coach Kennedy’s school district of this happening that everything was going smooth. At this point, Kennedy was also leading pregame prayers in the locker room with his team. When the school district notified Kennedy that he could no longer lead the prayer in the locker room, he agreed to their reasoning and even offered counter ideas to help ease the tension from the board.
But they kept pushing. Despite efforts from the players and parents telling the school board to allow the speeches after the games, Kennedy was informed that he would have to stop using his Christian beliefs as the core for his message to the players after the games.
After all this, Coach Kennedy agreed to the terms given by the board. The next week, he gave a motivational talk to the players shying away from religion but ended the game on a high note for both teams. He then waited for the stadium to clear out, and went back to the 50 yard line to pray in private. He continued to do this for a few weeks, and then suddenly found himself surrounded with players again, just as he originally had.
Leave it to the media to blow this out of proportion. Pictures and articles buzzed around Washington state for the next few days, until the school district ultimately decided to terminate Coach Kennedy.
Flash Forward to 2017
As we all can agree, Coach Kennedy knew this was entirely wrong of the school system which led to a long-running court battle. In a court case lasting until August 2017, Kennedy wanted to ensure that other coaches at other schools would have the right to exercise their religion without forcing it on anyone.
His fight takes us today to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel, which is made up of Judge Dorothy Nelson (a 1979 Jimmy Carter appointee), Judge Milan Smith (a 2006 G.W. Bush appointee), and Judge Morgan Christen (a 2011 Barack Obama appointee), ruled that the board of education was justified in suspending Coach Kennedy for his actions.
In the opinion, the panel wrote:
When Kennedy kneeled and prayed on the fifty-yard line immediately after games while in view of students and parents, he spoke as a public employee, not as a private citizen, and his speech therefore was constitutionally unprotected.
This is where it starts to get outrageous. His speech was constitutionally unprotected?
So when does it become protected? If a person cannot freely exercise their right to religion and free speech in public, as long as it is not infringing other’s rights to do the same, what is the problem? I forgot – this is the most liberal Circuit Court in the nation. Remember that old document your grandpa told you about, the Constitution? These people aren’t big fans.
These are the type of people to celebrate players taking a knee for the national anthem, but fire coaches for taking a knee to pray. This is the country we now live in, folks.
Six months out of his presidency and Barack Obama’s legacy of activist judges is still continuing. This entire issue is just as absurd as it sounds, which makes it all the more important that we the silent majority stand up and reclaim our nation. Even though we now have a President who is fighting for our values does not mean the fight is over.
I am calling on my brothers and sisters in Christ to join with me in prayer that our values will not be thrown to the side by a court’s decision. We must now more than ever stand up and reclaim America’s purpose to be the land of freedom and opportunity.