The fifty yard line has been a place of prayer for Coach Joe Kennedy since 2008. After each game he as taken the time to walk the field and pray for the school and the students. It has not been an issue and initially was only attended by him, until September of 2015 when the school district told him he must not pray anymore.
After each football game for the past seven years, Kennedy, who is the assistant coach of the high school’s football team, waits until the players have left the football field, then walks onto the 50-yard line to kneel in quiet prayer for his students, thanking God for a good game and for the opportunity to be involved in his student’s lives, and praying for God’s blessing on their future. The prayer is very short—typically less than 30 seconds.
Kennedy does not use his authority or position to instruct students to join him. Nonetheless, over time, many of his students have voluntarily adopted the practice of joining their coach on the field. One student is an agnostic and the son of an atheist, but he also joins the coach on the field because he regards it as a team-building and uplifting activity that he supports alongside his believing teammates.
Kennedy, a marine for 20 years, fought for the Constitution and his right to pray and believes standing up for what one believes is of utmost importance and a lesson for the students in his life.
The school district has fired him, telling him that he is no longer invited to coach the football team. Kennedy has enlisted the help of Liberty Institute to help him fight for his Constitutionally guaranteed right protected under the First Amendment.
On Oct. 26, Liberty Institute informed the school board that Kennedy’s attorneys are treating the district’s letter as an employer’s refusal to accommodate the coach’s religious beliefs, and that they would accordingly be filing a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The school district should appreciate the prayers offered on its behalf by Coach Kennedy and not punish him for carrying so deeply.