High school coach prays on football field, despite warnings from school district

BREMERTON - A high school coach defied orders from the Bremerton School District tonight, and said a prayer on the field after the homecoming football game.

Coach Joe Kennedy said he took a knee on the 50 yard line to have a private moment of faith. He did not ask players to join him, and seemed surprised that so many from the opposing team did.

Last month, the school district told him that he wasn’t allowed to pray because of concerns over the constitutional separation of church and state. The coach originally said he would follow the rules. But earlier this week, he changed his mind and decided to bring prayer back.

Coach Kennedy is now being represented by attorneys with the conservative Liberty Institute, who say that he has the right to do whatever he wants after the game.

“It’s a violation of the first amendment and other federal laws to prohibit Coach Joe from going out to the 50 yd. line and praying after the game,” says attorney Hiram Sasser.

But today, attorneys for the Bremerton school district sent out a letter saying Coach Joe is considered “on duty” until students have changed out of their uniforms and have been released back to their parent. It went on to say any overt actions while on duty would “amount to district endorsement of religion.”

Many parents say they hope the district will let the coach keep his job.

“I understand the school district's point, the separation between state and church,” says Zefrem Hacker, who has a son on the team. “But nobody's been forced to stand out there, nobody's been forced to sit out there and listen to him pray.”

Hacker says he think Coach Joe is setting a positive example by standing up for what he believes in.

“I personally like it. I'm trying to put some values in my son. I wish there were more people like Coach Joe out there.”

But not everyone agrees that a football game is the place to take a stand.

“If you don't agree with the rules, you can fight against the rules without going to the extreme of deciding to pray at the end of the game and getting fired just so you have a reason to sue the school district,” says Ken Aulgur. “I know it's a downer to my daughter who's one of the cheerleaders here, because it's not about the fun of homecoming and dance and everything else.”