by Jorge Gomez & Mia Gradick, Contributing Writers • 5 min read
It’s comeback season for Coach Joe Kennedy.
Recently, First Liberty and Kirkland & Ellis LLP filed an opening brief on behalf of Coach Kennedy requesting the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to review the Bremerton (WA) School District’s decision to fire him because of his silent 15-second prayer after games.
In the brief, our attorneys argue:
“Discovery has shown that Coach Kennedy’s ‘fleeting’ (the District’s words, not Coach Kennedy’s) personal prayer was directed to God, not others, and did not pose a risk of coercing student involvement in religion. In concluding otherwise, the district court improperly constrained the ability of public-school employees to exercise their Constitutional rights simply because they happen to be in view of students or on school property.”
Coach Kennedy has been denied the freedom to coach for nearly five years, but he’s never been a quitter, just as you would expect from 20-year Marine Corps veteran. Despite facing an intense and grueling legal battle—in fact, this is the second time First Liberty has presented his case at the Ninth Circuit—Coach has shown resolve and bravery in the fight to reclaim his God-Given freedoms.
If you recall, in January of 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case at the time, explaining that the Court needed more information in order to resolve the matter. But that wasn’t the end of the road. In a rare statement, four Justices of the Supreme Court (Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, Alito and Thomas) made it clear:
“…The Ninth Circuit’s understanding of the free speech rights of public-school teachers is troubling and may justify review in the future.”
This gave Coach Kennedy a “fresh set of downs” and a playbook for victory, an opportunity to continue litigating through the court system.
When the case returned to the federal district court earlier this year, the court ruled against Coach Joe. It stated that according to the Ninth Circuit his prayers are not protected by the Constitution.
But that district court decision was only a temporary setback. The fact remains that banning all coaches from praying just because they can be seen is wrong and contradicts the Constitution. And our fight for Coach Kennedy’s freedoms will not stop until we reach the end zone, until we reclaim his religious freedom and get him the justice that he deserves.
Get your FREE copy of the “Coach Kennedy Playbook.”
This resource gives you an inside look at what led to Coach Kennedy’s situation today, what this case means for people of faith and the X’s and O’s of our game plan for returning Coach Joe to the field.
If there’s someone who knows what it means to stand up for what you believe in, it’s Coach Joe.
He is a man of heroic persistence and courage—not only for living out his faith by kneeling in prayer, but also for standing his ground even though the courts continue to deny his constitutional rights.
But as he often says, one of the most important principles…whether it’s in life, football, on the frontlines of war, or on the legal battlefront…is to always give 100%.
As a U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant who served his country in uniform for 20 years, quitting has never been an option. During his time deployed overseas during Operation Desert Storm, he came to understand first-hand the sacrifices that one must make for the freedoms that we cherish—like the freedom to live out one’s faith.
When he returned home and was given an opportunity to coach football, he was determined to give 100% in his commitment to God. For him, taking a knee in silent prayer after every game was his way of giving glory to God and thanking Him for the privilege of coaching.
And even though he’s been kept off the sidelines and the gridiron, that doesn’t mean Coach is alone. Now, Coach Joe has a team of winning All-Stars supporting him.
Joining YOU in standing with Coach Kennedy are President Trump, Franklin Graham and football greats Tony Dungy, Bobby Bowden, Chad Hennings, and Steve Largent, as well as Alex Kendrick, the director of “Facing the Giants”—a movie that deeply inspired him. In fact, just a few months ago the President invited Coach to the Oval Office for an announcement about protecting religious freedom in America’s public schools…calling him a “great coach.”
With the Supreme Court’s statement and a winning playbook in our hand, we are looking forward to claiming the final championship title so that Coach Joe can return to the game he loves, while living out his faith. A victory for him would not only vindicate his freedom, but could set a precedent to reclaim religious freedom for coaches, players and ultimately all Americans—on and off the field.