Post-game prayer sidelines high school football coach

30 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Football coach put on leave for on-field praying.

A high school football coach in Washington has been placed on paid administrative leave for praying at games after school district officials told him to stop. About a dozen members of the Satanic Temple of Seattle, most dressed in hooded black robes and some masked, left Bremerton High School shortly after their arrival at a varsity-football game Thursday night.Oct. 16, 2015: Bremerton assistant football coach Joe Kennedy, in blue, is surrounded by Centralia players after they took a knee with him and prayed after their game against Bremerton, in Bremerton, Wash. (Meegan M.As co-chairs of the Congressional Prayer Caucus and lawmakers, you sent a mixed message this week to Americans about religion’s place in public schools.

Miffed that Bremerton, Wash., school officials told a coach to stop his public display of prayer on the football field, you wrote the superintendent and principal a letter saying they were wrong. Citing past Supreme Court and appeals court cases, officials said they did not want to be seen as endorsing religion. “While attending games may be voluntary for most students, students required to be present by virtue of their participation in football or cheerleading will necessarily suffer a degree of coercion to participate in religious activity when their coaches lead or endorse it,” Bremerton School District said. Students swarmed the fence where the Satanists stood outside.The mob climbed the fence, shook it, held up crosses, threw liquid, and chanted “Jesus.” Some yelled at the Satanists to go away. You and 45 other lawmakers who signed the letter contend there’s nothing wrong with a school employee dropping to his knee right after the game ends and praying at the 50-yard line in full view of everyone.

They claimed that they had warned Kennedy several times that he could not pray with players on the field after games. “While the district appreciates Kennedy’s many positive contributions to the [Bremerton] football program, Kennedy’s conduct poses a genuine risk that the district will be liable for violating the federal and state constitutional rights of students or others,” read a statement posted on the district’s website. “It was never like we were forced to pray with him,” former player Skyler Mullins told Q13Fox. Yet, isn’t it interesting that students and faculty at public colleges and universities hold prayer vigils on school grounds when violence and bloodshed scare the Hell out of us? Kennedy initially complied with the district’s directive until Liberty Institute, a religious-freedom organization based in Texas, encouraged him to resume the prayers.

He also said he’s willing to take this “as far as it goes and by doing so says he’s teaching his players “if you believe in something you stand up.” The senior class president was among some students and teachers who pressed for the district to clarify its policy on religion. There was an Islamic prayer vigil at an Irving, Texas, school for Ahmed Mohammed, the boy arrested after authorities mistook his homemade clock for a bomb. Abe Bartlett said he was one of those who invited a group of self-described Satanists to attend the Thursday night game in a push for answers. “The main reason I did it is to portray to the school district that I think we should either have a policy that we’re not going to have any religious affiliation or public religious practices, or they should say people are going to be allowed to practice their religion publicly whatever their beliefs,” the 17-year-old said Wednesday. “They need to either go black or white,” Bartlett said, noting that the issue has become a topic of discussion in his government class. “I don’t think this controversial middle ground is what our school needs.” Meanwhile, supporters filled Kennedy’s Facebook page, verified by his attorney Hiram Sasser, with messages. The district said it was bound by “lawful and constitutionally-required directives” about public religious displays and outlined several Supreme Court rulings backing the district’s actions.

On Wednesday, they suspended one of their coaches, Joe Kennedy, because he refused to stop holding his postgame, personal, private prayer, which typically lasted fewer than 30 seconds. The group was invited by a number of students, including Bremerton High senior- class President Abe Bartlett, who said he did so in an effort to force the school to clarify and act upon its policies. Berry said the institute, which says its mission is to defend and preserve religious liberty in America, is “prepared to take the necessary legal actions to defend coach Kennedy’s religious freedom.” Another Liberty lawyer said placing Kennedy on leave was a hostile-employment action and that the group would file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You’re promoting an America where it’s okay to ignore the protections set up not just for religious minorities but for the growing number of “nones,” the roughly 20 percent of Americans who say they are unaffiliated. Would it bar a government employee from silently bowing his or her head to pray over a meal or prohibit a Muslim teacher wearing a headscarf to school for fear these actions would be construed as an endorsement of religion?

We even poke fun at Mormonism, and Baptists used to want to crucify Catholics and Jews, while some Protestants think it’s OK to pray to a god of toenails. Lankford, you said “Gratitude to God is certainly not a crime in America.” You added that it in fact is “encouraged every year in the National Day of Prayer proclamation given by every American president, including this one.” Two wrongs don’t make a right. However, nowhere does the Constitution prohibit the government or government employees from referencing religion altogether, nor does it require that government officials proactively scrub all references of religion from the public square. And if you need something else recent on public school grounds, on Tuesday, faculty and students held a prayer vigil on the grounds of Veterans High School in Macon, Georgia, to honor a 16-year-old Veterans student who was slain.

They have weighed in that when it comes to public schools, representatives of schools should not have public displays of prayer – which is government endorsement of religion. The Supreme Court recently stated, “It is an elemental First Amendment principle that government may not coerce its citizens to support or participate in any religion or its exercise.” The Court went on to state that “an Establishment Clause violation is not made out any time a person experiences a sense of affront from the expression of contrary views.” These guiding principles from the Court were written in the context of a challenge to a small town’s practice of opening legislative sessions with prayer. The challengers did not like that most of the prayers offered were Christian in nature, even though participation was voluntary and anyone was welcome to offer a prayer. You are warping court decisions to suit your desire to return to the America of the 1950’s and early 1960’s when teachers regularly led children in prayer and in the recitation of Bible verses.

However, the Court rejected the feeble argument that a reasonable observer would believe that the government was favoring Christianity over other religions. Rick Perry did in 2012 when he backed Kountze, Texas cheerleaders’ in their fight against their school system to hold up run-through banners with Christian prayers on them. Kountze school officials at first prohibited the cheerleaders from using those banners, which included such sayings as “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” A lower court overruled the school system’s decision, saying the activity was student-led.

That others may choose to join Coach Kennedy of their own free will is not just irrelevant, but also more importantly an exercise of their own constitutional freedoms. At the end of the prayer, which can’t be heard on the video, someone says “Hallelujah.” Kennedy, CNN reported, cried as he spoke to reporters about the experience of so many joining him. Those displays show a “majority rules” kind of attitude rather than a respect for all Americans and a respect for the First Amendment’s call for government not to establish religion. Wertheimer, a former education editor of The Boston Globe and author of Faith Ed., Teaching About Religion In An Age of Intolerance, which came out this year.

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