High school football Coach Joe Kennedy was fired for taking a knee and offering a brief, quiet prayer after football games. The following timeline highlights the key moments in his journey. To read Coach Kennedy’s full story, view press releases, and access legal documents, visit FirstLiberty.org/coachkennedy.
Coach Kennedy becomes a Bremerton High School football coach and begins his tradition of taking a knee and offering a brief, quiet, personal prayer of 15-30 seconds at the conclusion of games.
September 17, 2015
Bremerton School District (BSD) conducts a fact-finding investigation, then sends Coach Kennedy a letter recognizing that students had participated voluntarily in Coach Kennedy’s post-game religious expression and acknowledging that Coach Kennedy had “not actively encouraged, or required, participation.” However, the District says Coach Kennedy must keep his prayers “physically separate from any student activity.”
October 14, 2015
Coach Kennedy, through counsel, sends a letter to BSD requesting a religious accommodation to kneel and say a brief, quiet, personal prayer on the field after football games conclude.
October 16, 2015
After the October 16 evening football game, Coach Kennedy kneels alone to offer a brief, quiet prayer of thanks; some players from the opposing team join him.
October 21, 2015
On October 21, the BSD Superintendent sends an email saying the issue in question has shifted from a coach “leading prayer with student athletes” to “a coaches [sic] right to conduct a personal, private prayer”. On October 21, Coach Kennedy–after extensive communication between the parties–offers to meet with the school district to find a solution, but the district declines.
October 23, 2015
BSD sends a letter emphasizing its appreciation for Coach Kennedy’s efforts to comply with the September 17 letter’s directives and acknowledges that his religious exercise was “fleeting.” BSD then announces a new ban on any employee engaging in any “demonstrative religious activity” that is “readily observable to…students and the attending public”; offers to “accommodate” Coach Kennedy by having him pray in secret in a location such as the “press box”.
October 23, 2015
After the conclusion of the October 23 evening football game, Coach Kennedy kneels alone to offer a brief, quiet, personal prayer of thanks.
October 26, 2015
After the conclusion of the October 26 evening football game, Coach Kennedy kneels alone to offer a brief, quiet, personal prayer of thanks.
October 28, 2015
On the same day, the district posts a Q&A document online admitting that the district found ‘no evidence that students have been directly coerced to pray with Kennedy’ and that ‘Mr. Kennedy has complied with [BSD’s] directives not to intentionally involve students in his on-duty religious activities.’
November 20, 2015
BSD places “Do Not Rehire…” recommendation in Coach Kennedy’s annual coaching evaluation. As a result, Coach Kennedy is fired from his job as a football coach at Bremerton High School with no chance of being rehired for the next season.
December 15, 2015
Coach Kennedy files a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that BSD violated his rights to free exercise of religion and free speech.
June 27, 2016
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issues a letter to Coach Kennedy granting him a right to sue Bremerton School District over his allegations of civil rights violations.