High School Coach Fired for Praying

Bremerton High School Football Coach Joseph Kennedy Fired for Praying

Football coach Joseph Kennedy from Bremerton High School, Washington, had the habit of kneeling at midfield as his way of thanking God after each football game. He did this alone and not during school activities. In 2015, the school administration told Kennedy to discontinue the practice of kneeling and praying. [SC Syllabus]

They were concerned that others may see it violating the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which prohibits the government from endorsing or promoting any religion.

Despite the warning, coach Kennedy was adamant and continued to exercise his freedom of religious practice. In response, the school district placed coach Kennedy on administrative leave. He was eventually fired, according to Seattle Times.

Kennedy filed a lawsuit against the district, arguing that his religious freedom and free speech rights had been violated.

But it wasn’t just about a “personal prayer” with which the school had an issue. Kennedy “has held his postgame ritual at midfield after each game for a motivational talk and prayer…

On the part of the Bremington, school employees cannot lead prayers with students in a public school where the students may be atheists or belong to other religious faiths. But Kennedy never imposed it on anyone. In other words, the school doesn’t want any Christian prayer to be uttered inside the school.

Kennedy was forced to file a lawsuit against the school district, alleging that his freedom of religion and speech had been violated.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2023 that Kennedy’s case fell under his First Amendment rights. The school was ordered to pay $1.77 million in damages and attorney’s fees. He can also return as a coach, the district said.


In 2021, an Asian immigrant substitute teacher at Glenbard North High School, Illinois, was barred from the building by Principal John Mensik after a disagreement with a white security guard. The sub claimed that he and his daughters, who attended the school, faced discrimination from the security staff, who was very disrespectful.

Before the incident, the sub was reprimanded by the Dean of Student Services, Debra Cartwright, because he spent lunch and a “prayer time” with his daughters in the cafeteria during lunch break.

Dean Cartwright, another Dean, John Healy, and its principal John Mensik, deemed it unprofessional for school staff to spend time with students and pray with them.


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