A high school football coach who won his U.S. Supreme Court battle to pray on the 50-yard line last year said he’s excited and nervous to be reinstated to the position for which he spent years fighting.
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Joe Kennedy, locked for seven years in a volleying legal battle with the Bremerton School District in Washington state, secured a 6-3 Supreme Court ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District last June.
The court found Kennedy’s First Amendment rights were violated when he was prevented from praying on the 50-yard line after games and ended up losing his job over the ordeal.
Now, Kennedy is slated to be reinstated to his assistant coaching position this upcoming season.
“I hardly believe it’s actually happening,” Kennedy told CBN’s Faithwire. “It’s been so long that I’ve been fighting so hard to get back there now. It’s really going to happen, and, man, I’m just so thankful.”
Kennedy admitted he has some “nervousness” over his return to the field, especially considering the very public and legally transformative nature of his religious freedom case.
But he believes he appropriately followed through on his pledge to pray after games and his quest to fight for his First Amendment rights.
“I set out to just pray by myself and that’s what my covenant with God was at the very beginning … just give a prayer or thanks,” Kennedy said.
When asked if he plans to pick back up on his prayers once he’s reinstated, the coach wasted no time in responding, “Absolutely.”
“That’s what my plan was from the very beginning,” he said. “It was my covenant to, after every game, just take a knee and thank God, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’m going to shake hands with the opposing team, talk to the coaches, shake their hand, and then I’m gonna turn around like I always have and take a knee and not worry about any of the repercussions.”
Kennedy added, “I’m just gonna have that private moment with God and whatever happens happens.”
The coach, who expects to potentially join some pre-season events this spring, is still speaking with the Bremerton School District to iron out the details.
The district has confirmed his reappointment, noting he will “be an assistant football coach for Bremerton High School for the 2023 season.” The case also cost the district quite a bit of money, as a settlement was approved this week for officials to pay $1,775,000 to settle attorneys fees.
That payment comes after the Supreme Court victory clarified an ongoing debate about free speech and religious liberty, namely that the coach wasn’t violating the Establishment Clause with his post-game prayers.
Kennedy said he was completely blown away last June when he found out the court ruled in his favor.
He said his case protects the First Amendment rights of people of any and all faiths, proclaiming this reality put a “permanent smile” on his face.
As for critics, Kennedy said he has tried to be understanding and engage them in conversation.
“I give everybody a chance to speak,” he said. “I try to listen to where they’re coming from. I try to understand why they’re coming from that and then I just ask them in return to respond the exact same way — listen to what I have to say, take a look at this from a constitutional perspective.”
Kennedy said he hopes his legacy is one in which people remember his willingness to take a stand for his beliefs, regardless of the costs or the time it took to fight.
“I’m just hoping that everybody remembered that I stood up and just fought for what was right,” he said. “It was one man standing up to … basically tyranny and not being … squelched — being able to stand up and for what you believe in, and being able to have those good, strong roots where you don’t give in when things get tough and no matter how long it goes on.”
Kennedy added, “Some things are just absolutely 100% worth fighting for.”
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