Praying Football Coach Will Sue Washington School District For Refusing To Let Him Pray

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Casey Harper Contributor
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The Washington state football coach who has been threatened for praying after his games announced Monday that he will file legal action against the school district.

The Christian legal group the Liberty Institute, which is representing Coach Joe Kennedy, told The Daily Caller News Foundation they will file legal action against Bremerton School District this week because the district has prohibited him from and threatened to fire him for outwardly showing his faith.

Kennedy prays after each football game on the 50-yard-line, but now the district has said Kennedy must stop because they fear his actions could open them up to a lawsuit. Kennedy has refused and since continued to pray, drawing national attention to his short, midfield prayers and the constitutionality of public school employees expressing their faith.

Liberty Institute senior counsel on the case Mike Berry told The DCNF they will file suit because the school refused to grant a religious accommodation for Kennedy, which they requested last week. The Institute also said the school violated the law by banning any outward expression of religion while he is on the job, which is a violation of his First Amendment rights, they contend.

The school district sent a letter to Kennedy and his legal team Oct. 23 denying his request for a religious accommodation and threatening that he would be disciplined and possibly fired if he conducts another post-game prayer. A copy of the letter was provided to TheDCNF.

The district says in the letter that if he Kennedy wanted to discuss finding a private room to pray they could likely oblige him.

“To summarize: While on duty for the District as an assistant coach, you may not engage in demonstrative religious activity, readily observable to (if not intended to be observed by) students and the attending public,” the letter reads.

Kennedy is a Desert Storm and Desert Shield combat veteran who said he was inspired to pray after games by the Christian football movie “Facing the Giants.” After initially agreeing not to pray, he later changed his mind and decided to defy the district.

“I spent 20 years in the military fighting to defend the Constitution and it didn’t seem right that I wasn’t allowed to say a prayer with my guys after a football game was over,” Kennedy told TheDCNF earlier this month. “I’m standing up for what I believe is right.”

Berry pointed out that religious accommodations are nothing new and that recent cases have validated them. The Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that Abercrombie and Fitch must allow a female Muslim employee a religious accommodation to wear a head covering on the job, despite company policy prohibiting them. The Supreme Court also ruled this year that a Muslim inmate should be allowed a religious accommodation to grow a beard, despite the prison’s policy against them.

“I would think that if a federal prisoner is entitled to that religious accommodation then a high school football coach would as well,” Berry told TheDCNF.

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Casey Harper