A former public high school football coach in Washington who lost his job for leading prayers on the field after games will receive nearly $2 million as part of a settlement.
According to a recent statement from Bremerton High School, Joseph Kennedy, who coaches the school’s football team, will receive $1,775,000 after the Bremerton School Board voted unanimously for the payout.
“Bremerton school board reaches nearly $2M settlement with praying football coach Joe Kennedy,” The Hammer Patriot said in a Twitter post.
The school additionally asked Kennedy to return as an assistant football coach for the 2023 season. If he agrees, he will receive a stipend of $5,304.
“We look forward to moving past the distraction of this nearly eight-year legal battle so that our school community can focus on what matters most: providing our children the best education possible,” the school said in a statement.
Last year, Kennedy returned to his position as coach after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor in June, asserting that the school district had gone too far in attempting to eliminate any perception that it was endorsing religious principles.
In the Supreme Court ruling, the court ruled that it was violation of the First Amendment, which was a violation of religious freedom. Separation of Church and State couldn’t be applied after football games since school hours were not involved. Prayer was conducted as a coach was not the same conduct was an employee of the school district.
“It is just incredible to know that I did nothing wrong. Everything I did was fine,” Kennedy said, according to The Daily Mail. “I had a commitment with God that I’d give him thanks after every football game, win or lose. And that’s the way I started out.”
In 2008, Kennedy began coaching at Bremerton High School, where he routinely prayed on the field after games for the next seven years. Soon after, students reportedly joined in his praying.
His contract with the school district was not renewed, but Kennedy never reapplied for the job.
At the time of the prayer, Kennedy was placed on administrative leave from the school district in 2015.
In the Supreme Court ruling, Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion that it had abandoned the 1971 precedent on how court cases should be resolved.
“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,” Gorsuch said in the written opinion. “Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance doubly protected by” the First Amendment.”
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