Oral arguments begin in Bremerton praying coach case

Coach Joe Kennedy lost his job for praying on the school field with the team after football games. This was after he prayed again after the game without students after he was told by the district not to.

Oral arguments began Monday for a former Bremerton football coach who lost his position after praying on the field after games.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard from the coach's lawyers and Bremerton School District attorneys. 

Bremerton school officials had asked the football coach to stop praying--but he didn't, forcing him out of a job.

Attorneys for the district argued that kneeling to pray after a game crossed the line that separates church and state.

"It obliterated the line in many different respects," said attorney Michael Tierney. "The time and place that he chose was so highly public and so much in the vicinity of the students that it did create the risk of an establishment clause."

Attorneys representing Kennedy said the school’s rules violated Kennedy's First Amendment right to freedom of religion.

"The rule that they’ve articulated would equally prohibit a teacher from wearing religious garb or a lunchroom prayer that may be observed by students," said Rebekah Perry Rickets.

 

Court judges challenged attorneys to review other scenarios. There were other concerns like the amount time it took for the district to say something to Kennedy.

"I'm stunned that nobody said anything but the reality is that that's what happened," said Judge Milan Smith. 

At least one judge found the district's response to the incident concerning citing a lost opportunity to teach students about religious tolerance and the Constitution.

It may take months for the court to release a ruling in this case. For now, Joe Kennedy says he just wants his job back.

"I want to be a coach. I want to be back with my young boys," he said. 

© 2017 KING-TV


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