Thursday, December 17, 2015

Praying Coach Takes Stand--Files Legal Complaint

Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

Bremerton High School football coach Joe Kennedy became national news when he ignored the school's demand to stop doing what he had been doing for 8 years--saying a short prayer at the 50 yard line following each game.

Because he prayed, they suspended him on October 28, and have now fired him by refusing to renew his contract.

Interestingly, another coach does chants to Buddha near the 50 yard line. He has not even been reprimanded, much less fired.

Kennedy is now taking legal action.

Coach Kennedy said this week he has been notified that the school district will not renew his contract---he's fired.

Although Kennedy was hired in 2008 and has had a tradition of praying, it was a non-issue until this fall.

For the past several years, some players from both teams had begun joining him for the short prayer. In fact some have said they came to the games because that brief moment of prayer with opponents kneeling together to acknowledge God was so meaningful.

The team captain said earlier this year that although he considers himself an atheist, he would often join the prayer because he liked the community feeling.

KREM TV in Spokane and TV stations in Yakima, Tri-Cities and Seattle are all reporting that the school was "concerned that students could feel coerced to participate in religious activity when they see their coaches lead or endorse it."

"Feel coerced?"

What about the anti-religious, immoral teaching that is regularly forced upon students in the classroom regarding human sexuality, abortion and family structure?

Humanism and secular progressivism is itself a kind of religion for those who embrace the dogma and practice the rituals.

With a good number of activist teachers passionately presenting this material, is there no concern that students may "feel coerced to agree with it," particularly when they are being graded on the material?

The atheist captain and a number of other players said they were never encouraged, nor did they feel any pressure to join the few minutes of prayer.

The press reports that the high school principal "became aware of the prayer this past fall."

I doubt that. I suspect someone somewhere decided to "separate church and state"---or else. The school panicked at the thought of a law suit and caved, even though "the prayer" was an important part of the community and no one felt compelled to pray.

I have been told that someone complemented the school for having the prayer following the game.

However, it became an issue---it is now a freedom of religious expression issue.

Now the school is faced with a formal complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

If necessary, the case, I'm told, will proceed to court.

In the complaint, Kennedy and his lawyer claim the district did not punish the team's offensive coordinator for conducting Buddhist chants in a similar manner.

So the Buddhist can chant, but the Christian can't pray.

Kennedy told Fox News' Todd Starnes why he has responded the way he has to this issue.

"It largely has to do with me being a Marine and a veteran---fighting for the constitutional rights of all Americans", he said. "I still believe in America being home of the free and the brave. AI haven't seen that lately. We constantly back down because someone could be offended. But that's not the American way. We talk about practicing tolerance and acceptance and diversity yet we are not living up to that. As an American, I can't sit by and let that happen."

Coach Kennedy says although the school's action was a "gut shot," he knew it was a possibility.

However, he says, "Given what has happened in the growth and development of the football program over the past eight years," he also thought the school may want to sit down and work through the issue with him.

Unfortunately public education does not function on actual positive progress as a primary goal.

Political Correctness has neutered excellence and achievement.

As of yesterday, school officials would not talk to the press, however, Kennedy's Liberty Institute attorney Mike Berry was talking.

Berry says Kennedy's religious discrimination complaint with the EEOC stems from the district's prohibiting his "private" religious expression.

The district has said that Kennedy is "on duty" until all players are dismissed, and that federal law and district policy prohibit school employees from engaging in religious activities with students present.

Berry says the district also discriminated against Kennedy when it barred him from games putting him on paid leave.

Berry says the school district has forced him and Kennedy into this position due to the adverse action they took against the coach.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The EEOC could sue the district if it finds that Kennedy's complaint has merit.

Clearly a favorable ruling by the EEOC will work in favor of Kennedy in his attempt to get his job back, which he wants.

If the EEOC denies him any protection, he can still sue the district.

Here's the irony for the district.

Kennedy works full time at the Naval Yard in Bremerton, and part time for the district as assistant coach. He has been working toward a full time head coach job.

His employment reviews have been stellar during the past 8 years. He is loved by students, facility and the community, and has been publicly credited as being a primary force in building the total football program to it's best performances in recent history.

He has also been credited with developing character and values in the athletes with whom he has worked.

Head football coach Nate Gillam resigned suddenly at the end of the season---just a couple of weeks ago. He is giving only "personal reasons" as to why he resigned.

The school is now faced with a natural progression of promoting an assistant coach who has been with the program for 8 years, is greatly responsible for making it successful, and is well liked and respected by all, to become head coach---or, kicking him further under the bus because he prays after football games.

We'll continue to follow this as it develops.

This is not what our Founders had in mind. Nor is it what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he promised the Danbury Baptists he and the other Founders had created a wall or protection for the church---a wall that was intended to keep the government out of the affairs of the church.

Be Informed. Be Vigilant. Be Bold. Be Prayerful.