By Leigh Jones
(WNS)–The high school football coach who refused to stop praying on the field after Bremerton, Wash., school district officials ordered him to, has been placed on paid leave until his contract runs out in December.
Joe Kennedy, represented by Texas-based Liberty Institute, is considering his legal options.
“We’re prepared to take the necessary legal actions to defend Coach Kennedy’s religious freedom,” Liberty Institute senior counsel Mike Berry told The Seattle Times. “His religious expression is not something he should hide or be ashamed of.”
Kennedy, a former Marine, began working at Bremerton High School as an assistant coach in 2008. He soon started praying on the field after games. The single, personal prayer sessions eventually attracted players, fans, and other coaches—all joining in voluntarily. Earlier this month, school officials ordered him to stop. When he refused, they benched him.
The coach, who only works with the school’s football team, will get paid about $4,398 for this season’s four months of games and practices. He is allowed to watch games from the stands but is banned from coming on the field.
Kennedy’s plight has gained national attention. On Oct. 27, 47 members of Congress sent a letter of support for the coach to the school district, which so far has refused to budge. Kennedy’s critics have also chimed in. A group of satanists from Seattle attended last night’s game—in black hooded robes. Some wore masks. They had initially asked for permission to perform a ceremony on the field but withdrew it after the school put Kennedy on leave.
When they arrived, a group of students gathered on the other side of the fence where the satanists stood. They held up crosses, chanted “Jesus,” and reportedly threw liquid, according to The Seattle Times. The group left almost immediately, saying it had accomplished its mission because Kennedy didn’t pray on the field.
But he did pray in the stands with supporters during half-time. “I’m willing to take this all the way to the end,” he said.