The controversy surrounding a high school football coach who refuses to stop leading team prayers during games took an unexpected turn this week.
A student at Bremerton High School in Washington has asked the local Satanic Temple to deliver an invocation — and the semi-satirical devil worshippers told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson they would show up.
“We will be at Thursday’s game doing a postgame Satanic invocation on the field if Coach (Joe) Kennedy continues to pray,” said Lilith Starr, head of The Satanic Temple of Seattle. “We won’t step on the field if he is stopped or doesn’t pray.”
Bremerton High School coach Joe Kennedy has defied orders from school district officials to stop his tradition of leading team prayers. The school says the prayers violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits public officials like Kennedy from promoting religion.
“School staff exercising their right to silently pray in private on their own is fine,” Washington state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn said in the statement. “But leading a prayer isn’t. School officials are role models; leading a prayer might put a student in an awkward position, even if the prayer is voluntary. For students who don’t share the official’s faith, prayers the official’s public expression of faith can seem exclusionary or even distressing.”
But Kennedy insists he has the right to lead team prayers. Lawyers from the Texas-based Liberty Institute have threatened to sue the school district if they block Kennedy’s prayers.
Starr said that by failing to stop the prayers, the school has turned the football field into an open forum and cannot discriminate against Satanists.
“In permitting school-sponsored prayer, the district has created a de facto open forum for religious expression in accordance to the Establishment Clause of the federal constitution which prohibits the government from preferring one religion over another,” the Satanic Temple of Seattle said in a press release. “Therefore, the Satanic Temple wishes to ensure their belief system has equal access to the football field.”
Starr said the student who requested the invocation is atheist who “felt their views weren’t being represented,” according to the Kitsap Sun. The student wishes to remain anonymous to avoid facing a backlash.
Starr said the invocation would consist of a seven-minute-long proclamation — punctuated by the banging of a gong — that would address “justice and equal religious liberty for all.”
Watch video, via KIRO TV, below: