Coach Joe Kennedy is headed back to the high school football field, eight years after he lost his job for praying on the gridiron.
Kennedy won his religious liberty case before the Supreme Court in June after a long legal battle. The fight began in 2015, when the Bremerton School District in Washington state outside of Seattle did not rehire Kennedy after he refused to stop praying at the 50-yard line after games.
On Tuesday, Kennedy and the Bremerton School District submitted a joint stipulation to a federal district court in Washington agreeing that Kennedy would be reinstated as a coach.
“Kennedy is to be reinstated to his previous position as assistant coach of the Bremerton High School football team on or before March 15, 2023,” the agreement reads.
The Bremerton School District said in a statement that it has agreed with Kennedy to give him his job back, and that “Kennedy will be able to pray.”
Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in June in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, Kennedy said all he ever wanted “was to be back on the field with my guys.”
The justices ruled 6-3 in Kennedy’s favor, with Justice Neil Gorsuch writing in the majority opinion that the “Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect an individual engaging in a personal religious observance from government reprisal.”
The agreement between Kennedy and the school district is no surprise, since it’s “always been inevitable that Coach would return to the field after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that his practice of praying on the field after a game is consistent with the Constitution,” said Jeremy Dys, a lawyer with First Liberty Institute, a nationwide legal organization protecting religious liberty that represented Kennedy.
The school district says it will “not interfere with or prohibit Kennedy from offering a prayer consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion,” but notes that Kennedy and the school district are in disagreement over some of the wording the Supreme Court issued on the issue of prayer.
The court agreement also states that the “parties disagree on the specific wording of the declaratory relief.”
“We are eager to resolve the remaining questions and look forward to having Coach back on the field on or before March 15, 2023,” Dys said, referring to the disagreements over the interpretation of the court’s wording.
The school district and Kennedy have until Nov. 8 to submit their “proposed wording on the disputed issues” to the court, at which time the court will then make a decision on the issues under disagreement.
Kennedy is currently not providing statements to the media.
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