Football coach fired for praying on field to take appeal to Supreme Court: 'Stand up for your faith'


Joe Kennedy, who was fired in 2015 after he refused to stop saying prayers on the field while acting as a public school coach, told “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday that he plans to take his case to the Supreme Court after he lost his latest appeal. 

 “The First Amendment is under attack and somebody’s got to stand up for it,” he told host Ainsley Earhardt. 

Speaking on “Fox & Friends,” Kennedy shared this message: “Stand up for your faith and hopefully we won’t have to have anybody else choose between their faith and job.” 

The former high school football coach and his legal team have alleged Kennedy’s First Amendment rights were violated by the Bremerton School District in Washington state after he was issued an order to end his prayer sessions while on the field with players.

“We feel really confident we will be able to go to the Supreme Court and finally get this overturned and restore coach Joe to the football field,” Hiram Sasser, executive general counsel for First Liberty Institute, which is representing Kennedy, said on “Fox & Friends.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declined to rehear arguments challenging a ruling by a district court in favor of the school district.

Kennedy was first suspended and then fired after he refused to stop saying prayers on the field in 2015. 

The former coach’s post-game prayers began with him silently praying alone on the field, though he was later joined by players.

On Wednesday, Kennedy told Earhardt that he believes “nobody was really offended at the time.” 

“Every school employee, especially coaches, they have a right to be able to pray whenever they’re not doing their official thing,” Sasser said. “So that’s what Coach Kennedy was doing.” 

“He was fired for praying silently by himself several minutes after the game out there on the field,” he stressed. 

Sasser added that “it’s really shocking” that legal process has taken “all these years,” but hopes the Supreme Court will be able to resolve the situation.

Kennedy noted that he hasn’t been working during the process and “can’t wait to get back on the football field.” 

The school has argued Kennedy was never reprimanded for silently praying on his own and applauded the court’s decision. 

WASHINGTON STATE HS COACH FIRED OVER POST-GAME PRAYERS LOSES NINTH CIRCUIT COURT ROUND

“The Ninth Circuit made the right call: The Bremerton School District was correct to protect the religious freedom of its students and their families,” Richard Katskee, legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the school district’s legal team, said in a statement to Fox News. 

“The Constitution requires public schools to provide an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students…that includes ensuring that student-athletes don’t feel compelled to pray or participate in religious activities to secure their place on a team.”

The Ninth Circuit said Kennedy “spoke as a public employee,” which bars him from engaging in religious activity.

The appeals court also noted that the school offered the then-coach “a private location within the school building, athletic facility, or press box” before or after the game for private prayer.

Coach Joe Kennedy kneels on the football field joined by his players.

Coach Joe Kennedy kneels on the football field joined by his players.
(First Liberty Institute)

He was also reportedly allowed to pray on the field if he chose to as long as he waited for all players and fans to leave the premises. 

It is not the first time the suit has been brought before the high court. 

FOOTBALL COACH JOE KENNEDY: A PRAYER SIDELINED ME — HERE’S WHY I’M STILL FIGHTING TO GET BACK IN THE GAME

The Supreme Court in 2019 sent back Kennedy’s case to the lower courts, stating that more facts needed to be determined. 

The legal team representing Bremerton School District condemned Kennedy’s move to take his case to the Supreme Court and called on the highest court to again throw out the case.

“If the Supreme Court is interested in a case about personal, private religious activity by public-school employees, this just isn’t that case,” Katskee told Fox News. “And it certainly shouldn’t have any stomach for undermining the religious freedom of the students and their families.”

Kennedy told Earhardt that the long legal battle has “absolutely” made his faith stronger. 

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“I have had to dig in and trust God to get us through this,” he said. 

Fox News’ Caitlin McFall and Dom Calicchio contributed to this report. 

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