Between 2008 and 2015, Joe Kennedy was one of over 40,000 football coaches in the United States. But his membership in the gridiron fraternity ended in the fall of 2015 when he was fired for praying silently on the 50-yard line following games.
From his first day serving as an assistant on the Bremerton High School (Wash.) varsity football staff and head coach for the junior varsity team, Kennedy began the practice of taking a knee at midfield to silently thank the Lord for his players and their safety.
“I was going to give God the glory after every game, win or lose,” he said.
Over the years, players from both teams began joining the coach. With so many students surrounding him, Kennedy gave motivational speeches. School officials grew uncomfortable with the tradition, accusing Kennedy of creating a spectacle and violating the establishment clause of the Constitution after he admitted he shared his faith in his remarks. He was asked to stop the post-game practice. For a time, Kennedy stood down – but then resumed, cutting out the speeches and limiting his actions to only silent prayer.
He was then suspended and fired.
This coming Monday, Coach Joe Kennedy’s case will he heard at the Supreme Court. All he wants is the right to coach again – and pray silently after games.
“The thought of somebody being fired in America for demonstrating their faith — that blows my mind,” he says.
It should blow our minds, too – and sadden us at the same time.
There is tragic irony in the fact that at a time when school violence, drug use, sexual promiscuity and teenage suicide remains pressing concerns – an upstanding gentleman who is providing a wonderful example to vulnerable youth is literally fighting for his job and personal reputation.
The Bremerton school district has wasted the last seven years spending taxpayer dollars to demonize and diminish a good man’s reputation. The hostility directed towards the coach and his faith is either born out of ignorance or animosity – or perhaps both. The leftists and antagonists who claim to champion children are regularly championing policies that harm them. It’s foolish and counterproductive to block people of faith from serving in public schools. In fact, Bremerton High School would be well served to have more men and women with the character and faith of Coach Kennedy.
Focus on the Family, along with our friends at the Family Policy Alliance, are calling for Americans to pray for Coach Joe Kennedy – and the nine members of the United States Supreme Court – ahead of Monday’s hearing.
We’re calling it “Pray 50,” and we’re asking Christians to find a football field in their neighborhood this Sunday and gather on the 50 yard-line. Take a photo and share it on social media with the hashtag #Pray50. Your boldness and faithfulness may inspire others to pray for the coach, too.
If you can’t pray on a field – pray wherever you are.
Our prayers matter. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective,” wrote James (5:16).