Football Coach Seeks En Banc Rehearing Following E | First Liberty

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Football Coach Seeks En Banc Rehearing Following Extreme, Far-Reaching Opinion by Three-Judge Appeals Panel

First Liberty attorneys say future of private prayer hangs in the balance

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September 21, 2017

SEATTLE, Wash.—Attorneys for First Liberty Institute today filed a petition on behalf of their client, football coach Joe Kennedy, requesting an en banc rehearing of Coach Kennedy’s case by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. If granted, eleven active Ninth Circuit judges—including the chief judge—would hear Coach Kennedy’s case and issue a decision.

“An en banc rehearing by the Ninth Circuit is necessary, given the extreme, far-reaching opinion issued by the three-judge panel,” Mike Berry, Deputy General Counsel for First Liberty. “If the current decision stands, a teacher could be fired for wearing a yarmulke to school.  A coach could be fired for bowing his head in prayer when a player is hurt.”

In August, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit held that a school district in Washington state could ban Coach Kennedy from silently praying alone for 15 to 30 seconds following a football game.

“Banning coaches from praying just because they can be seen is wrong and contradicts the Constitution,” said Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty. “We hope the Ninth Circuit will recognize the significance of this case. The future of private prayer hangs in the balance.”

Coach Kennedy’s case has received national attention and support from political and religious leaders, including President Trump and Franklin Graham.

To learn more about the case, visit CoachKennedyFacts.com.

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.

Dear Coach Kennedy,

I would like to say thank you. Your dedication to your faith and your commitment to the positive education of our youth is truly admirable. I am deeply grateful for your military service and for taking a courageous stance in protecting religious liberty rights for teachers and administrators.

If our First Amendment protects a player’s right to kneel in protest, it certainly protects your right to kneel in prayer.

I was shocked to learn that Bremerton High School suspended you after denying your request to continue your wholesome practice of giving thanks after football games.

The Bremerton School District’s actions violate the law and send the wrong message to coaches, young people, our communities, and our nation — a message of hostility to religious freedom and intolerance toward personal religious expression.

Please know that you are not alone in this difficult time — I support you and First Liberty as you continue to fight for religious freedom! Our schools need more coaches like you, our country needs more citizens like you, and our world needs more people like you.