Washington State’s Bremerton High School has been in the news for the past month because assistant football coach Joe Kennedy was leading his team in prayer after games (that’s him standing up on the left side of the picture below) until he finally got called out on it. At least that’s what I thought.
A couple of weeks ago, the District investigated the issue. While nobody was punished for any wrongdoing, officials reminded the public that “neither Kennedy nor any other staff member interacting with students may engage in religious expression, including prayer.”
That should have taken care of everything.
But that was before Liberty Institute got involved.
Todd Starnes said today that the group sent a letter to the District defending Kennedy’s illegal prayers:
Liberty Institute, a law firm that specializes in religious liberty cases, now represents Coach Kennedy and they fired off a letter on Wednesday to the school district urging them to rescind the prayer ban.
“There is no lawful prohibition against Coach Kennedy’s practice of saying a private, post-game prayer,” attorney Hiram Sasser wrote. “The prayers are Coach Kennedy’s private religious speech, and no reasonable observer could conclude that BHS sponsors, endorses, or encourages student participation.”
Sasser blasted the school district for “banning Coach Kennedy from bowing his head or even being physically present where students may be praying.”
Of course, it’s all bullshit. When the crowd sees a coach leading his team in prayer on the field, it’s hardly private. It’s school-sponsored Christianity and the players are pressured into joining him.
Kennedy, like Kim Davis, seems to be ignorant of the law. He’s idiotically putting his faith in a group that cares more about self-publicity than the people they’re supposed to represent. And that’s why he’s going to pray this Friday, regardless of what the District told him:
Liberty Institute wants the Bremerton School District to accommodate Coach Kennedy’s religious beliefs. But regardless, Coach Kennedy plans on praying at midfield on Friday night.
He does so knowing that it could cost him his job.
“I’m not a guy who hides in a corner and does a secret prayer to God,” the coach told me. “I’m very open about my faith everywhere I go.”
Well, that’s fine by me. Let him pray. The District will have no choice but to fire him. They’re already on notice and not taking action will mean inviting a lawsuit. (Liberty Institute sure as hell won’t pay the other side’s legal bills when that happens.) And then this whole problem will be over.
Kennedy cares more about making a public display of his faith than being there for his players. It’s a selfish move, but it’s his decision. No one was stopping him from praying silently to himself, but there can never be too many Christian martyrs, I suppose.
What’s funny is that this will backfire even on his own terms. If he really wants to spread Christianity, he has a better chance of doing it by being a coach and developing those bonds with his athletes now and in the future.
He’s going to give that all up just to mug for the cameras on Friday night.
A wise person wouldn’t make that decision.
Thankfully, Todd Starnes and the people at Liberty Institute aren’t known for their wisdom.
***Update***: I originally misidentified the Christian group defending the coach earlier. My apologies for the mistake.
(Thanks to Matt for the link. Large portions of this article were published earlier)