BREMERTON - The Bemerton High assistant football coach who was suspended for praying on the field after games has filed a federal complaint against the school district.
On Tuesday, he told Q13 FOX he’s being discriminated against for his religious beliefs.
“I never wanted any of this," Joe Kennedy said. "I’m just the average guy. I just want to coach football.
Kennedy found himself in the spotlight earlier this season, when the school district told him his tradition of praying with students on the field after games violated its policy. The district asked him to stop, but he didn’t.
“There’s a constitutional right that I have as an American,” Kennedy said.
The district put him on paid leave in October, then gave him his annual coaching evaluation last month. At the bottom, under recommendations, it read "do not rehire."
“It was that knife in the heart going wow, that’s really it," he said. "So I’m kind of forced to do the only thing I can do: Fight for my rights.”
On Tuesday morning, Kennedy’s attorneys with the Liberty Institute filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“We really feel the Bremerton school district has forced our hand into doing this, because of the unlawful religious discrimination they’ve taken against Coach Kennedy,” said attorney Mike Berry.
The school district says they cannot comment because they have not received official notification of the complaint yet. Kennedy says he’s still hopeful that he can find a way to return to coaching.
“I’d really like to work with the school, and be able to just go back to doing what we’re doing, and that’s helping these young men become better men.”
He’s had offers to coach at other schools, but says Bremerton is his home and where he wants to stay.
“The community is our family, these kids are everything to me, and we got a lot invested in Bremerton.”