Joseph Kennedy, former high school football coach in Washington state who lost his job for conducting prayers after games on the 50-yard line, has been reinstated as a coach and reached a settlement of $1.7 million after he sued the school district, per ABC News.
Kennedy had been coach for the Bremerton high school football team since 2008. At first, he would privately pray on the field after each game.
Eventually, his students would join him.
He would also make religious references in his speeches to his players. The school district asked him to stop, which he refused, and in 2015 he was suspended from being a coach.
They stated that Kennedy’s prayers violated “constitutionally-required directives that he refrain from engaging in overt, public religious displays on the football field while on duty,” and said that as a school district they had “a fundamental obligation to protect the rights of all of its students.”
Kennedy never reapplied for the job, and instead took legal action by suing the Bremerton school district with his attorneys at the First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit Christian-based legal group, according to the New York Post.
The case was eventually brought to the Supreme Court, who ultimately sided with Kennedy 6-3 last June.
Kennedy’s argument was that his suspension hindered his First Amendment right of free speech and freedom to exercise religion. However, the school district’s argument against him was that as soon as the players – and some students – joined in the prayers, it violated the Establishment Clause, which prohibits the establishment and/or influence of religion by the government.
“This is a right for everybody. It doesn’t matter if you’re this religion or that religion or have no faith whatsoever,” Kennedy told ABC News. “Everybody has the same rights in America.”
“It was my covenant between me and God that after every game, win or lose, I’m going to do it right there on the field of battle,” he added.
The school board approved the settlement on March 16.
After living in Florida since his suspension, Kennedy’s attorneys confirmed that he will be moving back to Washington state and getting his job back as assistant coach.
“Kennedy is to be reinstated to his previous position as assistant coach of the Bremerton High School football team on or before March 15, 2023,” his attorneys said in a statement.