Joe Kennedy, the Washington state high school football coach who lost his job in 2015 for praying on the field after games, will be reinstated by March 15, 2023.
The news comes after Kennedy’s Supreme Court victory in June that ruled 6-3 that the coach was within his constitutional rights when he prayed at midfield after games.
“Bremerton School District shall not interfere with or prohibit Kennedy from offering a prayer consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion,” the attorneys wrote in the filing, according to court records. Some details remain in discussion, with the filing stating, “The parties disagree on the specific wording of this portion of the injunction.”
The documents also note the “Bremerton School District cannot retaliate against or take any future adverse employment action against Kennedy for conduct that complies with the terms of the Court’s Order.”
In a filing on Tuesday by both sides involved in the case, court records were submitted to U.S. District Court for Western District of Washington Judge Robert Lasnik that state Kennedy would be reinstated to his previous position. Kennedy served as assistant coach of the Bremerton High School football team before the controversy surrounding his post-game prayers.
Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority ruling in the June decision seven years after the events.
“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,” ” Gorsuch wrote. “The Constitution neither mandates nor tolerates that kind of discrimination.”
Kennedy began serving as an assistant coach in 2008 and started the tradition of kneeling at the 50-yard line in prayer after each game. Some students voluntarily joined him at times.
The practice became an issue when a school administrator addressed the prayers in 2015, and Kennedy was placed on administrative leave.
Kennedy lost in both the district court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court turned down the case in 2019, sending the case back to the District Court, which sided with the previous rulings.
After the 9th Circuit Court again ruled against Kennedy, his legal team, First Liberty Institute, and Kirkland & Ellis, resubmitted the case to the Supreme Court in 2021, and it was accepted.
“This is just so awesome. All I’ve ever wanted was to be back on the field with my guys,” Kennedy said after the court victory.
“I am incredibly grateful to the Supreme Court, my fantastic legal team, and everyone who has supported us,” he added. “I thank God for answering our prayers and sustaining my family through this long battle.”