Joseph Kennedy, the high school football coach whose prayer on the field led to a landmark case and a victory for religious freedom, celebrated after the verdict was reached, saying, “It is just incredible to know that I did nothing wrong.”
The Daily Wire explained after the verdict on Monday:
On Monday morning, the Supreme Court ruled in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District that Kennedy had his First Amendment rights violated after he was placed on administrative leave by the school district and banned from participating in the football program for praying on the field after games in view of students.
“I don’t even know how to put it into words,” Kennedy told The Daily Mail in an exclusive interview. “They should give me a day off to think about it and process it all.”
“It is just incredible to know that I did nothing wrong. Everything I did was fine,” he continued. “And that the First Amendment is fine and well for everyone.”
First Liberty, which represented Kennedy, summed up the case’s history through the courts:
The Bremerton (WA) School District suspended, and later fired, Coach Kennedy over his silent, 15-second prayer. First Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit against the school district, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. A federal district court upheld Coach Kennedy’s termination. On appeal, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concluded that, because Coach Kennedy could be seen by students and fans engaging in religious expression, the school lawfully terminated his employment and his silent prayers were not protected by the Constitution.
In January 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to review Coach Kennedy’s case but the case has returned to the District Court to answer some of the questions raised by the Justices. Upon re-hearing, the District Court and then Ninth Circuit again sided with the school district setting up a return to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I had a commitment with God that I’d give him thanks after every football game, win or lose,” Kennedy recalled. “And that’s the way I started out.”
“I had some kids that wanted to join, and they asked, and of course it’s a free country,” he said. “They can do whatever they want. And that went on fine for eight years.”
“Then someone made a complaint, and they started an investigation,” he noted. “And the lawyers got involved from the school district and they wanted to completely remove all religious aspects from the public schools. So they fired me, and I’ve just been fighting ever since to get back.”
“I really thought if someone just looked at the facts of the case and the way the Constitution was written, that they would have to rule in my favor,” he opined. “I was optimistic every step of the way, and I was surprised that the lower courts ruled against me – some of them so harshly. I was waiting for someone to get beyond whatever their bias was, and just look at the facts of the case. And rule accordingly.”
“I think every American should have been totally 100 percent on my side. From just my perspective,” he stated. “This is about the First Amendment. It has nothing to do with infringing on anybody else’s. This is somebody exercising the freedom that is in our country.”
“People feel the Constitution has been put aside, and they haven’t had the freedom. And that’s why they are so excited about this,” he surmised.
Kennedy asserted he just wants to return to his old job, saying, “That’s all I asked for, from the beginning. The only thing I asked for was to be a coach, and thank God after. So I’m waiting for the school district and my lawyers to figure that out.”