Coach Kennedy loses 9th Circuit appeal to pray in public
by Leigh Jones
Posted 8/23/17, 03:28 pm
Former Bremerton, Wash., high school football coach Joe Kennedy lost his appeal today at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled he did not have a right to pray at the 50-yard line after games. A three-judge panel of the court, known for liberal rulings, said Kennedy’s prayers did not amount to constitutionally protected free speech because he was acting as a public employee when he offered them. “By kneeling and praying on the 50-yard line immediately after games while in view of students and parents, Kennedy was sending a message about what he values as a coach, what the district considers appropriate behavior, and what students should believe, or how they ought to behave,” Judge Milan Smith wrote in the majority opinion. Smith went on to claim Kennedy “took advantage of his position” to push his faith on “impressionable and captive minds.” Kennedy, who served in the U.S. Marines and was a part-time coach, began his post-game prayer routine in 2007. The short prayers soon attracted large groups of students and parents—and the attention of school district officials who ordered him in 2015 to stop. When he refused, he lost his job. He sued nearly a year later.
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Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on education for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital.