The Washington State assistant football coach, who lost his job after praying on the field after games and then took it back due to a 2022 US Supreme Court ruling, resigned on Wednesday with a promise that he would continue to fight for religious freedom.
Joe Kennedy, the football coach at Bremerton High School, lost his job in 2015 and then fought a years-long legal battle to get it back.
In a statement posted on his website, Kennedy cited several reasons for stepping down, including caring for a sick family member. He also said that he would continue to fight for his religious beliefs.
“I think it is best to continue to defend constitutional liberty and religious liberty by working outside the school system, and that is what I will do,” the statement said. “I will continue to work to help people understand and embrace the historical judgment at the heart of our cause. As a result of our condition, we all have more freedom, not less. This should be celebrated, not disrespected.”
Kennedy added that the public should fight for its freedom to express its religious views.
“As I have made clear, we must take a stand for what we believe in. In my case, I took a kneeling stance. I encourage all Americans to take a stand for freedom and our right to express our faith however we see fit.”
Kennedy’s representative said Wednesday afternoon in an email that he had no additional comments.
A spokesperson for the Bremerton School District confirmed in an email Wednesday that the school system has received Kennedy’s resignation, which awaits approval at a regularly scheduled board meeting on Thursday. The spokesman declined further comment.
Kennedy was first suspended and later fired because he “would say a short, quiet prayer after football games,” according to a statement posted on his website. A lawsuit has been filed against the school district arguing that it violated the Constitution, according to Kennedy’s website.
The nation’s highest court, which leans conservatively, ruled in 2022 by a vote of 6 to 3 that Kennedy is entitled to pray on the field after games.
The region said it was trying to avoid the appearance of endorsing a religious viewpoint. Also at issue was the concern that players may have felt they had to participate or risk feeling disconnected from the team.
Kennedy insisted on praying publicly in midfield after matches, and the district placed him on furlough and refused to renew his contract.
On Friday, Kennedy returned to training from the bench for the first time in nearly eight years. But he indicated that he may not stay in office for long.
“Knowing that everyone expects me to do this kind of work gives me a lot of stomachache,” Kennedy told the Associated Press. “People are going to be horrified because I’m going to bring God back to the public schools.”
After the game, a 27-12 victory over visiting Mount Douglas High School, Kennedy moved alone to midfield, knelt and prayed for about 10 seconds.