Bremerton High School's varsity football coach, Joe Kennedy, announced his resignation on Wednesday, promising to continue fighting for religious liberty. Kennedy, who had previously lost his job in 2015 after praying on the field following games, was able to regain his position thanks to a landmark ruling by the US Supreme Court in 2022. In a statement on his website, Kennedy mentioned various reasons for stepping down, including the need to take care of a sick family member. However, he made it clear that he would persist in advocating for his religious beliefs.
Kennedy expressed his belief that the public should fight for their freedom to express their religious views, urging all Americans to make their own stand for freedom and the right to express their faith. A representative for Kennedy stated that he had no further comments to make. The Bremerton School District confirmed that they had received Kennedy's resignation, which would be reviewed at the upcoming board meeting.
The controversy surrounding Kennedy began when he was suspended and later fired for praying a brief, quiet prayer after football games. He filed a lawsuit against the school district, arguing that it violated the constitution. The Supreme Court, which has a conservative majority, ruled 6-3 in Kennedy's favor in 2022, affirming his right to pray on the field after games. The district had argued that it was attempting to avoid endorsing a religious viewpoint and expressed concerns that players might feel pressured to participate in the prayers.
Despite his victory and subsequent return to coaching, Kennedy expressed hesitation about staying in the position due to the potential backlash of bringing God back into public schools. Nevertheless, he coached his first game in nearly eight years on Friday, where he knelt and prayed alone at midfield for about 10 seconds after a 27-12 win.
Kennedy's decision to resign comes as a surprise, considering his recent reinstatement and his determination to fight for religious freedom. In his statement, he thanked the people of Bremerton, the coaches, staff, and students, and expressed his well-wishes to them. The Bremerton School District declined to comment on personnel matters. Hiram Sasser, the executive general counsel of First Liberty Institute, the conservative legal organization that represented Kennedy, stated that his family's health situation was serious and that they were in their thoughts and prayers.
Kennedy's resignation marks the end of a long and contentious legal battle that has sparked debates over the separation of church and state and the freedom of religious expression. While the Supreme Court ruling in his favor is seen as a landmark victory for religious liberty, the controversy surrounding Kennedy's prayers on the field continues to raise questions about the extent to which religious practices should be allowed in public institutions.