A Bremerton,Washington assistant coach defied an order from school district officials when he conducted his traditional post-game prayers at the 50-yard line following Friday night’s homecoming game.
An he was joined by a throng of supporters.
The Seattle Times reported:
Surrounded by members of his team, players from the rival Centralia High School and scores of supporters from Kitsap County and beyond, Bremerton High assistant coach Joe Kennedy knelt on the 50-yard line after Friday night’s game and prayed.
It was some version of the basic prayer he’s said for years, he said afterward.
“Lord, I thank you for these kids and the blessing you’ve given me with them,” Kennedy prayed. “We believe in the game, we believe in competition and we can come into it as rivals and leave as brothers.”
Kennedy told the Times that his intent wasn’t so much to become a controversial figure as it was to practice his faith as guaranteed by the First Amendment.
“I always taught my kids to do what’s right … and fight for what you believe in,” he said.
The Times reported:
The school district says Kennedy must stop his prayers, which it says violate the separation of church and state. Lawyers representing the coach say his right to religious freedom is being violated by the district’s rules.
Numerous people at the school homecoming game came to support Kennedy and his longstanding practice of kneeling and praying at the 50-yard line after games, often among a crowd of players and other coaches.
Kennedy initially agreed to stop his postgame prayers, but earlier this week said he changed his mind after the Texas-based Liberty Institute took up his cause.
Some people, like Andy Lancaster of nearby Silverdale, attended their first Bremerton High game Friday to participate in Kennedy’s post-game prayer.
“I’m here because I can’t stand ACLU bullies,” he said.
The game and prayer were also attended by local alumni who hadn’t been to a game in years, as well as State Rep. Jesse Young, who stood next to Kennedy.
Senior Cory Flournoy, 17, was filming the game for his media class and said students are “sick and absolutely tired of it all.”
“It’s ridiculous that he got in trouble at all,” he said. “The students basically support the coach regardless of their religious beliefs,” Flournoy said.
“It isn’t a big deal at all,” said Brandon Chavez, who played football with the team as a freshman. “I prayed because I’m Catholic, but some walked off. There was never any pressure.”
The school district now has possession of the ball. Will they run, will they punt, or will they throw the game and claim defeat?
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