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Joe Kennedy, the high school football coach in Washington state who won a landmark Supreme Court case after losing his job for praying on the field with students, announced on Wednesday that he was stepping away from football to advocate for religious liberty.
Kennedy was placed on administrative leave from Bremerton High School in 2015 after complaints about his on-field prayers, then eventually lost his job. He was later reinstated to his position after the Supreme Court ruled this summer that his First Amendment rights had been violated.
On Wednesday, Kennedy said he was resigning from his position at Bremerton to care for a sick family member and be a religious liberty advocate.
“I believe I can best continue to advocate for constitutional freedom and religious liberty by working from outside the school system so that is what I will do,” Kennedy said in a statement. “I will continue to work to help people understand and embrace the historic ruling at the heart of our case. As a result of our case, we all have more freedom, not less. That should be celebrated and not disrespected.”
“As I have demonstrated, we must make a stand for what we believe in,” he added. “In my case, I made a stand to take a knee. I encourage all Americans to make their own stand for freedom and our right to express our faith as we see fit. I appreciate the people of Bremerton, the coaches, staff and especially the students and wish them all well. Bremerton will always be home.”
Kennedy only coached in one game back at Bremerton before announcing his resignation. Bremerton defeated Mount Douglas Secondary School 27-12, after which Kennedy prayed by himself in the middle of the field. According to the Seattle Times, he plans on moving to Florida, where he lived as his legal saga played out.
“The district has received Mr. Kennedy’s resignation and it is pending board approval at tomorrow’s regularly scheduled meeting,” Bremerton spokesperson Karen Bevers told the Times.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled that Kennedy had been discriminated against because of his faith.
“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,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote. “Religious observances even as it allows comparable secular speech. The Constitution neither mandates nor tolerates that kind of discrimination.”
Kennedy, a former Marine, is working on a book and film project about his experience.