Coach Who Was Fired for Praying Loses in Court: ‘We Hope the Supreme Court Will Right This Wrong’

A high school football coach who was fired for praying with his players has suffered another courtroom loss.

In a unanimous panel opinion, three judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Coach Joe Kennedy’s 50-yard-line post-game prayers were a violation of the Constitution’s establishment clause.

Judge Milan Smith writes, “Kennedy’s attempts to draw nationwide attention to his challenge to the district showed that he was not engaging in private prayer. Instead, he was engaging in public speech of an overtly religious nature while performing his job duties.”

In 2019, the former Bremerton, Washington high school coach told CBN News why he was fighting the district.

“Praying, I can do anywhere. The Christian side of me is like you don’t take away my faith. Prayer makes no difference where you do it. But the Marine in me? It was like, yeah I will fight for the Constitution and everybody’s rights. It means something to me. I got blood in that game,” Coach Kennedy said.

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Kennedy’s lawyers say they plan to appeal, calling the decision “wrong” and contradictory to the Constitution.

“Banning coaches from praying just because they can be seen is wrong and contradicts the Constitution,” said Mike Berry, First Liberty Institute’s General Counsel. “Today’s opinion threatens the rights of millions of Americans who simply want to be able to freely exercise their faith without fear of losing their job.  We plan to appeal, and we hope the Supreme Court will right this wrong. This fight is far from over.”

Back in 2019, Justice Samuel Alito wrote regarding Kennedy’s case, “the Ninth Circuit’s understanding of the free speech rights of public school teachers is troubling and may justify review in the future.” 

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