A Washington state high school football coach is getting some terrific news after winning a case before the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year.
Joseph Kennedy was fired from his job in 2015 for refusing to compromise with the school district after they attempted to force him to stop praying on the field after games. The nation’s highest court ruled 6-3 in June that the First Amendment protects his right to freedom of religious expression.
Now, Kennedy is slated to be reinstated by March 15, 2023.
“Bremerton School District shall not interfere with or prohibit Kennedy from offering a prayer consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion,” his attorneys wrote in a court filing, according to records. While some details remain in discussion, the filing also states: “The parties disagree on the specific wording of this portion of the injunction.”
In addition, the filing notes that “Bremerton School District cannot retaliate against or take any future adverse employment action against Kennedy for conduct that complies with the terms of the Court’s Order.”
The Daily Wire adds:
In a filing on Tuesday by both sides involved in the case, court records were submitted to U.S. District Court for Western District of Washington Judge Robert Lasnik that state Kennedy would be reinstated to his previous position. Kennedy served as assistant coach of the Bremerton High School football team before the controversy surrounding his post-game prayers.
Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority ruling in the June decision seven years after the events.
“Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance doubly protected by the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment. And the only meaningful justification the government offered for its reprisal rested on a mistaken view that it had a duty to ferret out and suppress,” Gorsuch wrote. “Religious observances even as it allows comparable secular speech. The Constitution neither mandates nor tolerates that kind of discrimination.”
Kennedy, a veteran, began serving as an assistant coach in 2008 and began the tradition of kneeling at the 50-yard-line after games to pray. Some students voluntarily joined him; none were required to do so.
After some complaints beginning around 2015, school administrators placed him on administrative leave as the two parties attempted to work out a compromise. He filed suit and lost in the 9th Circuit and 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court refused to take the case in 2019 but decided to accept it in 2021.
“This is just so awesome. All I’ve ever wanted was to be back on the field with my guys,” Kennedy said after the court victory.
“I am incredibly grateful to the Supreme Court, my fantastic legal team, and everyone who has supported us,” he added. “I thank God for answering our prayers and sustaining my family through this long battle.”