Praying football coach keeps job, but gives up freedom of religion

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Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy will stay on as coach, but won’t be allowed to pray or discuss religion, says school Superintendent Aaron Leavell.

Kennedy had said on his Facebook page that he was concerned about losing his job at the Washington state school at the time an investigation was launched into whether he was leading students in prayer.

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In a letter Thursday, Leavell said that Kennedy, a Marine veteran, was being restricted by “an outside attorney” who had determined that his praying was violating the Constitution.

Although the particular reasoning in the letter was about a violation of board policy and fear of losing federal funding by continuing prayer, case law was cited that forbids prayer in public schools.

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Kennedy addressing school board; photo by Kitsap Sun
Kennedy addressing school board; photo by Kitsap Sun

Students are still free to express religious beliefs, it was noted, but the constitutional right is not enjoyed by employees.

Leavell wrote that “motivational talks” and “inspirational talks” are encouraged to replace any prayer or religious expression.

The letter can be read here in its entirety.

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