Last week the Bremerton, Washington School Board announced they had voted on Thursday to accept and settle a claim with Joseph Kennedy for his attorney fees in the amount of $1,775,000. This settlement was made in regards to the former coach being placed on leave in 2015 for praying on the field with his players.
Not only was the settlement reached for attorney fees, Kennedy is being reinstated as a high school football coach. The district said on its website, “Mr. Kennedy will be an assistant football coach for Bremerton High School for the 2023 season. Mr. Kennedy has completed human resources paperwork and we are awaiting the results of his fingerprinting and background check and Mr. Kennedy will need to complete all training required by Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA). As with any other assistant coach, Mr. Kennedy will be included in coaching staff communication and meetings, spring football practice and other off-season football activities.”
Kennedy, the Christian and praying football coach, is a former coach at Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Washington, and started coaching there in 2008. He initially prayed alone on the 50-yard line at the end of games. Students started joining him, and over time he began to deliver a short, inspirational talk with religious references. Kennedy did that for years and also led students in locker room prayers. The school district learned what he was doing in 2015 and asked him to stop.
Coach Kennedy stopped leading students in prayer in the locker room and on the field but wanted to continue praying on the field himself, with students free to join if they wished. Concerned about being sued for violating student’s religious freedom rights, the school asked him to stop his practice of kneeling and praying while still “on duty” as a coach after the game When he continued to kneel and pray on the field, the school put him on leave, and then fired him from his position.
After Kennedy’s firing, the case made its way through local, state, and the Supreme Court, where the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Kennedy’s favor in August 2022. A court also ruled in October 2022 that the Bremerton School District in Washington State must hire him back by March 2023.
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