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Joe Kennedy, football coach once fired for prayers, resigns after one game back at school

Kennedy won a U.S. Supreme Court case against the Bremerton School District in Washington in 2022 and was back on the football coaching staff this fall.

BREMERTON, Wash. — The long-awaited return of an assistant football coach in Bremerton who was fired for prayers on the field has come to an abrupt end.

Joe Kennedy, who won an eight-year legal battle against the Bremerton School District last year over his dismissal, has resigned from the coaching staff in an announcement posted on his personal website.

“I believe I can best continue to advocate for constitutional freedom and religious liberty by working from outside the school system so that is what I will do. I will continue to work to help people understand and embrace the historic ruling at the heart of our case. As a result of our case, we all have more freedom, not less. That should be celebrated and not disrespected,” said Kennedy. 

“As I have demonstrated, we must make a stand for what we believe in. In my case, I made a stand to take a knee. I encourage all Americans to make their own stand for freedom and our right to express our faith as we see fit. I appreciate the people of Bremerton, the coaches, staff and especially the students and wish them all well. Bremerton will always be home,” he concluded.

Kennedy's case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where in 2022 a 5-4 majority ruled in his favor. Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote “the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike” in his opinion.

At Bremerton's game on Friday night, Kennedy was back on the sideline for the first time since 2015. In speaking to the Associated Press leading up to the game, Kennedy expressed reservations about whether he would continue on at Bremerton after Friday.

“So many people are asking, ‘What’s next?’ And I have no idea,” Kennedy said. “Do I stay for the season? Do I stay for a couple of games? Is this the only game? We don’t know.”

In Wednesday's press release, Kennedy also mentions plans to take care of an ailing family member who lives out of state as a reason for his resignation. Kennedy and his wife also live in Florida now, and he told AP he was staying at a friend's house during his time on Bremerton's coaching staff.

As for what's next for Kennedy, he hinted at his next chapter in speaking to the AP last week before his first game back.

“We’ll make some decisions of what’s next in our life, because obviously it’s not going to be football forever,” Kennedy said. “We’d like to do — I don’t know — maybe some ministry or something.”


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