Appeals court refuses to reinstate Bremerton coach who prayed after games

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The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to reinstate former Bremerton High School football coach Joseph Kennedy, who lost his job after he refused to stop praying on the field after games.

A three-judge panel ruled Wednesday that Kennedy was acting as a teacher, with a duty to the district, students and parents to set an example and “communicate demonstratively” to those groups. The appeals court found Kennedy “took advantage of his position to press his particular views upon impressionable and captive minds before him.”

In two opinions totaling 62 pages, the appeals judges said Kennedy could not prove he was exercising his First Amendment rights as a private citizen when he insisted, against orders by the Bremerton School District, on taking a knee at the 50-yard line after football games and praying.

Kennedy first began the practice in 2008, according to court documents, and nobody complained until an employee from another district mentioned it to someone with the Bremerton district in 2015. By then, Kennedy — a former Marine — often was joined by members of his team, an occasional parent and sometimes players from the other team.

After an investigation, the district told Kennedy he could continue the practice only if he did it after the players had gone home and the field was empty. 

Read more at The Seattle Times
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