A Washington state assistant football coach is insisting on Christian prayers during school games, even after being ordered to stop because it violates the Constitution, Fox13 reports.
Joe Kennedy, coach at Bremerton High School, was told last month by school district officials that his long-standing practice of holding sectarian prayer violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
“I’ve got my eyes closed and I feel all these people around me. I’m like, God, I hope those aren’t kids,” Kennedy told reporters. “I’m sitting there and I’m going, ‘God, thank you for this opportunity. And … if this is the last time I step on the field with these guys …”
Earlier this month, Kennedy said he'd continue to defy the school district because he made an "agreement" with God.
“I kind of made an agreement with my personal faith and with God that this was something that I was going to do, and I was going to give him the glory after every single game, and do it on the 50,” had had said. “I’m kind of a guy of my word, and I’m just going to go through with what I’ve always done.”
Kennedy had briefly obeyed the directive, replacing the prayer with a motivational speech, Fox13 reports. But then, the conservative Liberty Institute intervened and is backing his prayer tradition.
"It's a violation of the First Amendment and other federal laws to prohibit Coach Joe from going out onto the 50-yard line and praying after the game," a representative for the group told the station.
But the school district says Kennedy is still on duty after the games and his actions constitute an endorsement of his religion.
“The district is in no way taking away an athletic coach’s freedom of expression,” Superintendent Aaron Leavell wrote in a statement. “What we are doing is what every state-funded agency and school district must do: abide by the laws that govern us.”
Bremerton said he plans to stand his ground.
“Whatever happens happens, you know,” he told the Bremerton Patriot newspaper. “But I’m going to be bold in my faith and I’m going to fight the good fight and I want to set that example for every one of the kids if you believe in something.
But as homecoming approaches, one dad pointed out, the latest battle in the American culture war is overshadowing what should be a fun milestone for high school students.
"I know it's a downer to my daughter who's one of the cheerleaders here," the man told Fox13. "Cause it's not about the fun of homecoming and dance and everything else."