After a landmark Supreme Court victory allowing his silent postgame prayers, a high school football coach is expected to return to his coaching job next year.
Joseph Kennedy had taken a knee in silent prayer at the 50 yard line for years following football games at Washington state’s Bremerton High School. After a complaint, the school district suspended him from his coaching position in 2015 for allegedly violating the First Amendment’s prohibition against government establishment of religion.
Kennedy, represented by the First Liberty Institute, filed suit against the school district in 2016, alleging violations of the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in June that Kennedy’s actions were protected free speech and free exercise of religion.
Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion that “in no world may a government entity’s concerns about phantom constitutional violations justify actual violations of an individual’s First Amendment rights.” The Lion reported on this litigation earlier this year.
“This is a right for everybody. It doesn’t matter if you’re this religion or that religion or have no faith whatsoever,” Kennedy said in an earlier interview with ABC News.
This week attorneys for both parties in the suit filed a joint agreement that, among other provisions, says Kennedy will “be reinstated to his former position on the football team on or before March 15, 2023,” according to a CBS report.
The document also prohibits the district from retaliation or “any future adverse employment action against Kennedy for conduct that complies with the terms of the court’s order.”
The two sides still reportedly disagree on language prohibiting the district from interfering with prayer that is consistent with the Supreme Court’s ruling.
While questions remain over future accommodations for Kennedy’s prayers, Kennedy plans to move back to Bremerton, Washington, from Florida this year.