Joe Kennedy, a Washington state public high school assistant football coach who was fired for praying on the field after games, has been reinstated.
In 2015, the Bremerton School District fired Kennedy for praying on the 50-yard line after games, resulting in a legal battle that ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme court last year.
The conservative legal firm, First Liberty Institute, announced last week that Kennedy was reinstated as a football coach at Bremerton.
“We are thrilled that Bremerton and Coach Kennedy are back together, and we hope they go undefeated,” First Liberty’s Executive General Counsel Hiram Sasser said in a statement.
According to The Christian Post, attorneys representing Kennedy and Bremerton School District filed a joint stipulation last October that would have Kennedy reinstated to his former position by March 15, 2023.
Kennedy first sued the school district in 2016 as he argued his case based on religious freedom. In 2017, a three-judge panel for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Kennedy. The U.S. Supreme Court first declined to hear his appeal in the case in 2019, but then in March 2021, a three-judge Circuit Court panel ruled against Kennedy for a second time.
The Supreme Court then agreed to hear the case, and last June, the high court ruled 6-3 in favor of Kennedy.
“Kennedy prayed during a period when school employees were free to speak with a friend, call for a reservation at a restaurant, check email, or attend to other personal matters. He offered his prayers quietly while his students were otherwise occupied. Still, the Bremerton School District disciplined him anyway,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion.
“Both the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect expressions like Mr. Kennedy’s. … The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.”