Appeals court panel rules against coach Kennedy in postgame prayer case

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has declined Joe Kennedy’s request for a legal injunction that would have reinstated him to his job as an assistant football coach at Bremerton High School and allowed him to pray after games.

Kennedy was placed on paid leave from the job in 2015, when he refused an order from administrators at the Bremerton School District that he cease praying on the football field following games.

His contract was not renewed in 2016.

In the legal battle that followed, Kennedy argued that the district had violated his constitutional right to freedom of expression and freedom of religion. The district said Kennedy had violated its policy upholding the separation of church and state.

In its ruling, the Ninth Circuit panel wrote that Kennedy “spoke as a public employee, not as a private citizen when he kneeled and prayed on the fifty-yard line immediately after games in school-logoed attire while in view of students and parents.”

Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. wrote in the opinion that Kennedy “took advantage of his position to press his particular views upon the impressionable and captive minds before him. … Because plaintiff’s demonstrative speech fell within the scope of his typical job responsibilities, he spoke as a public employee, and the district was permitted to order him not to speak in the manner that he did.”

This story will be updated later today.

© 2017 KING-TV


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