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Prayer Shouldn’t Be a Firing Offense


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With all the bad things I’ve done in my life, it still surprises me that I was fired for praying.

I was a terrible kid. My adoptive parents did their best, but I was always getting in trouble. The Marine Corps became my ticket out of the fights, group homes and foster care. Twenty years after enlisting, I moved back home to Bremerton, Wash. I had never been particularly religious, but my wife persuaded me to go to church. I felt God was calling me to be a better husband, so I committed my life to him.

The Bremerton High School athletic director seemed sure that my experience training Marines to work as a team was all the qualification I needed to be a football coach. As I weighed the opportunity, I caught the movie “Facing the Giants.” It seemed an answer from God. I committed to coaching football and promised God that I would take a knee by myself in quiet prayer at the 50-yard line following every game, win or lose.

Over the years, my prayers developed into motivational talks in which I led players who chose to join me in prayer. When the school district eventually told me to stop doing that, I did. My commitment with God didn’t involve others. It was only to pray by myself at the 50-yard line after each game.

But then the school district got lawyers involved, and they kept shifting the goal posts every time I complied. Eventually they said I had to refrain from any “demonstrative religious activity” visible to students or the public. They suggested instead I walk across the field, up the stairs, across a practice field, into the main school building, down the hall and into the janitor’s office if I wanted to pray after games.

I thought that would send a message that prayer is something bad that has to be hidden. I couldn’t send that message. So I simply asked to continue praying quietly on one knee at the 50-yard line after each game.:snip:

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Apr. 16 2022

Coach Joe Kennedy has had a heck of a life. From the start, all the odds were against him. His adopted parents abandoned him when he was a boy, and he had to fend for himself. After high school, he joined the military, and for his 20-year career in the Marine Corps he was practically an atheist. Then he returned home and became a high school football coach, and everything changed. He became a believer. One night, he put on a movie, "Facing the Giants," which includes a coach who prays on the 50-yard line. He made a covenant with God to pray after every game. It cost him his job. Now, he’s facing the Supreme Court to defend his right to quietly pray in public after football games. He just wants his job back and his faith protected. But the outcome of the case will affect the First Amendment rights of teachers and coaches all across America, and it will answer an important question: Is America still a free country?

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