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  • Coach Put On Leave For Praying Midfield After Football Games

    A Washington state football coach has been put on paid administrative leave indefinitely Wednesday evening after refusing to stop holding impromptu prayer sessions midfield after games.

    Coach Joe Kennedy, a Persian Gulf War combat veteran, has been praying at the 50-yard line since 2008, and it eventually became a tradition where the players joined him. But Bremerton School District told Kennedy last month that he must stop the prayers so as not to “alienate” any students. Initially, he agreed, but has since decided to fight the request.

    He announced Monday he would file suit against the district because they refused to grant him a religious exemption and threatened to fire him if he continued praying after the games. The district has banned Kennedy from participating in any team activities or being present at public community activities, such as Friday night games.

    “I spent 20 years in the military fighting to defend the Constitution and it didn’t seem right that I wasn’t allowed to say a prayer with my guys after a football game was over,” Kennedy told The Daily Caller News Foundation earlier this month. “I’m standing up for what I believe is right.”

    Kennedy’s legal team has argued that just because he is an employee of a public school doesn’t mean he loses all right to public religious expression.

    “We tried to meet with the school officials in-person but they refused to meet,”  Hiram Sasser, Kennedy’s counsel at The Liberty Institute, the Christian legal group representing Kennedy, said in a statement provided to TheDCNF. “We were only able to have a brief hour and a half call with their lawyer, and the result was a letter banning private prayer just  a few hours before last Friday’s game.  It is unfortunate this school district is choosing litigation instead of a simple meeting.”

    Nearly 50 Congressmen, including the co-chairmen of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, sent a letter to the district Wednesday demanding they respect his right to religious expression.

    “For an American citizen, who spent twenty years serving this nation as a U.S. Marine, to be suspended from his job due to a personal expression of faith is a direct violation of the Constitutional rights guaranteed to every American,” Republican Virginia Rep. [crscore]Randy Forbes[/crscore], who Co-Chairs the Congressional Prayer Caucus, told TheDCNF. “The School District is arguing that Coach Kennedy can exercise his faith, but only as long as no one else can see it. But the Constitution doesn’t  require Coach Kennedy to be sequestered to a private room out of sight and earshot to offer a prayer. Members of Congress have a longstanding tradition of opening legislative sessions with prayer—some Members have even offered the opening prayer themselves—and Coach Kennedy should have the same freedom to pray after his team’s games.”

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    Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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