Football coach fired for praying after games will be reinstated after Supreme Court overturns firing on 1st Amendment grounds

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BREMERTON, WA- While freaks on TikTok get invited to the White House to meet with the occupant of the Oval Office, some people lose their careers for having the audacity to pray before a football game.

Thankfully, the United States Supreme Court earlier this year decided that was unconstitutional. Now, the coach who was fired will be getting his job back.

The Washington Examiner reports that Joe Kennedy, the coach who was fired from his job leading the Bremerton (WA) High School football team, will be reinstated as coach, according to court documents filed this week.

In June, the high court ruled in a 6-3 decision that the Bremerton school district violated Kennedy’s First Amendment rights when it terminated him for praying after football games.

The case goes back to 2015, when Kennedy was terminated. In response, Kennedy sued the school district, alleging that his freedom of religion had been breached in violation of the First Amendment.

That led to a lengthy legal battle between Kennedy and the school district which finally ended with the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this summer:

“Respect for religious expressions is indispensable to life in a free and diverse Republic—whether those expressions take place in a sanctuary or on a field, and whether they manifest through the spoken word or a bowed head,” wrote Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch in the majority opinion.

“Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance doubly protected by the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment.

And the only meaningful justification the government offered for its reprisal rested on a mistaken view that it had a duty to ferret out and suppress religious observances even as it allows comparable secular speech.”

The filing released Tuesday mandates Kennedy’s return as head coach of the football team no later than March 15, 2023, while adding a clause that says, “Bremerton School District shall not interfere with or prohibit Kennedy from offering a prayer consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion.”

Jeremy Dys, senior counsel at First Liberty Institute, which represented Kennedy expressed gratitude for the mandate to reinstate Kennedy.

“Since the Supreme Court released its decision in June, it was inevitable that Coach Kennedy would be back on the field,” Dys said. “We’re glad that the school district has agreed that by March 15, 2023, he’ll be back to coaching, just like he wanted when he filed the lawsuit.”

According to FOX-13 in Seattle, Kennedy began coaching at the high school in 2008. He initially started praying along the 50-yard line at the end of games.

What started out as a personal faith journey at the end of games soon saw some students begin to join him. Nobody was forced to do so; they made the personal choice to join the coach.

Over time, Kennedy started to give short inspirational talks to the students, some with religious overtones. This went on for several years, while Kennedy also led students in locker room prayers.

Upon discovering this in 2015, the school district asked him to stop. Kennedy abided as far as leading prayer in the locker room and on the field, but said he would continue his personal moments of prayer by himself after games, with students being allowed to join him if they desired.

The school district, concerned some woke parents might sue for violating students’ so-called “religious freedom rights,” asked him to completely stop kneeling and praying while he was “on duty” as a coach after the game. Kennedy refused and continued to kneel and pray on the field. At that, the district put him on paid leave. He was soon fired from his position.

After the Supreme Court decision, the school district remained headstrong, warning that any coercion of staff for students to pray was “illegal and unethical.”

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) said:

“…it remains illegal and unethical for public school employees to coerce, pressure, persuade, or force students, players, staff, or other participants to engage in any religious practice as a condition of playing, employment, belonging or participation.”

Further, the office said it would continue to monitor and crack down on any complaints about public school officials or employees using “positional authority and taxpayer resources” to compel students to participate in religious expression.”

Drag queen story hours are probably perfectly alright.

“Individuals have always held express rights to exercise their own faith within reasonable limits in public spaces,” State Superintendent Chris Reykdal said.

“This ruling affirms that right, but it also retains the long-held understanding that church and state (public entities) are separate. Schools will not embrace a particular faith or compel any individual to participate or recognize any faith or religious practice.”

The ruling continued, noting that the Bremerton School District “shall not interfere with or prohibit Kennedy from offering a prayer consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion.”

The next step in the case involves both sides issuing a joint submission on Nov. 8 which will outline each side’s proposed wording on the disputed issues and relief issued to Kennedy, the Fox outlet said.

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For more on religious freedom, we invite you to read some prior pieces we published on the topic:

DIG DEEPER

GEARY COUNTY, KS – On Wednesday, August 31st, the attorneys for Pamela Ricard, a former math teacher at Fort Riley Middle School, announced that the Geary County School District has been instructed to pay Ricard $95,000 in a lawsuit settlement.

In March, Ricard sued the school district after she was reprimanded and suspended for three days in the spring of 2021 for refusing to use a student’s preferred pronouns, stating that the district’s policies on preferred pronouns violated her religious beliefs.

Ricard stated that the school district denied her request for a religious exemption to its policy that teachers use students’ preferred names and pronouns in school and in the classroom.

According to the lawsuit, teachers were also told to conceal a student’s preference by using legal names when addressing parents, if that was the student’s wish.

Tyson Langhofer, the director of the Alliance Defending Freedom Center for Academic Freedom, which filed the lawsuit along with the Kriegshauser Ney Law Group, said in a statement:

“No school district should ever force teachers to willfully deceive parents or engage in any speech that violates their deeply held religious beliefs.”

Ricard, who taught at the school beginning in 2005, reportedly addressed a student as “miss” to avoid using the student’s preferred first name after Ricard was told that the student used he/him pronouns.

According to the lawsuit, Ricard believed that by addressing the student as “Miss (legal/enrolled last name),” she was respecting the student while also upholding her own religious beliefs.

The lawsuit states that Ricard believes God assigns gender at birth and that any policy requiring her to use language that is different from the student’s biological sex “actively violates Ms. Ricard’s religious beliefs.”

https://fundourpolice.com/

Reportedly, neither the school or the district had a formal policy on gender pronouns at the time of the incident. However, Ricard was suspended under the district’s bullying and diversity and inclusion policies.

In September 2021, the district’s Board of Education approved a policy requiring that students’ preferred names and pronouns be used. At that same meeting, the board also voted to deny Ricard’s request for a religious accommodation.

In May, a federal judge allowed Ricard’s lawsuit to proceed, stating that she was likely to “prevail on her free exercise of religion claim.”

That same judge granted her motion to halt enforcement of the parental communication part of the policy and allowed her to continue to address students by their preferred names while avoiding pronouns consistent with their preferences.

According to Ricard’s attorneys, after that ruling, the school board voted to revoke the parental communications policy.

The lawsuit states that Ricard asked three times to be given a religious exemption to the policy, but her beliefs were never accommodated.

Ricard sued the school board as well as Superintendent Reginald Eggleston and Fort Riley Middle School principal Kathleen Brennan.

The lawsuit alleged that the district’s actions violated Ricard’s constitutional rights to free speech, free exercise of her religion, due process, and equal protection under the law. When the suit was first filed, Josh Ney, one of her attorneys, said in a statement:

“Our suit contends that schools cannot force teachers to promote novel views about gender fluidity and ever-expanding pronoun categories without regard to the First Amendment or due process.”

He added:

“Throughout her career, Ms. Ricard has consistently treated every student in her classroom with respect and dignity; unfortunately, the school district has not treated Ms. Ricard with similar good faith or basic fairness.”

Ricard retired in May, in part because of the dispute and partly to be closer to her family in Oklahoma. As part of the settlement, the district agreed to issue a statement that she was in good standing without any disciplinary actions against her.

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LET Unity

Judge denies motion by school district to dismiss lawsuit filed by parents’ who challenged a policy on preferred names and pronouns

June 6th, 2022

WALES, WI- According to a report by CBN News, two sets of parents are suing the Kettle Moraine School District in an effort to challenge its policy that allows children to go by their preferred name and preferred pronouns without parental consent.

On Wednesday, June 1st, a Wisconsin Circuit Court judge denied a motion by the school district to dismiss the case. In his opinion, Judge Michael P. Maxwell ruled that the parents’ lawsuit has merit, stating:

“It demonstrates a potential violation of their rights as parents to direct the upbringing of their child and is sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss.”

One of the couples in the case, identified in the lawsuit as T.F. and B.F., was allegedly forced to withdraw their 12-year-old daughter from the district to “protect her mental health and preserve their parental role.”

The couple alleges that the school district violated their constitutionally protected rights by “using a male name and male pronouns” to address their daughter at school without their consent and over their objections. Judge Maxwell wrote, in part:

“For purposes of a motion to dismiss, T.F. and B.F.’s allegations are that they were forced to withdraw their daughter from Kettle Moraine to protect her and preserve their parental role when Kettle Moraine refused to honor their decision about what was best for their daughter.”

Maxwell added:

“Wisconsin courts recognize that parents have a right to make decisions regarding the education and upbringing of their children, free from government intervention.”

The other couple that joined the lawsuit did so to make sure that the same thing does not happen to their children. Judge Maxwell wrote that those parents, identified as P.W. and S.W. “may challenge a policy of the district that they believe interferes with their parental rights.”

After denying the motion to dismiss, the judge gave the school district 20 days to file an answer to the complaint.

The parents are represented by attorneys with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in the lawsuit, B.F. v. Kettle Moraine School District.  In a statement, ADF Senior Counsel Roger Brooks said:

“Parents’ rights to direct the upbringing, education, and mental health treatment of their children is one of the most basic constitutional rights every parent holds dear, yet we are seeing more and more school districts across the country not only ignoring parents’ concerns but actively working against them.”

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Brooks added:

“For that reason, we are pleased that the court rejected the school district’s request to throw out this case and instead recognized that the argument of our clients demonstrates a potential violation of their rights as parents to direct the upbringing of their child.”

The statement concluded:

“Kettle Moraine should take this opportunity to change its policy, which violates the constitutionally protected rights of parents and isn’t in the best interest of children. As the court wrote, ‘Wisconsin courts recognize that parents have a right to make decisions regarding the education and upbringing of their children free from government intervention.'”

ADF stated that before filing the lawsuit, attorneys from WILL and ADF wrote a letter to the school district expressing the concerns of their clients and asking it to change its policy to require parental consent before school officials use a child’s preferred name or pronoun at school and to retrain its staff accordingly.

However, the school district allegedly did not respond to the letter, leaving the parents with no choice by to file the lawsuit.


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