Praying coach’s suspension opens split on religion in school

30 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

High school football coach on leave for praying attends game, prays with spectators.

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.BREMERTON, Wash. (AP) — A Washington state high school football coach placed on leave because he refused to stop praying on the field attended his team’s game and prayed in front of the bleachers.At the Oct. 16 homecoming game between the Bremerton Knights and the Centralia Tigers, everyone was waiting to see what happened after the final score was tallied.

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. Kennedy had received a letter from the school district on October 23, stating that he faced discipline, including the loss of his job, if he performed “demonstrative religious activity” while on the public field as a coach. 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. The district said that although Kennedy’s contributions to the football program were appreciated, his practice “poses a genuine risk that the District will be liable for violating the federal and state constitutional rights of students or others”.

Instead of having a full-blown prayer circle, Kennedy began taking a knee in prayer for a few 20 seconds after shaking hands with the opposing team at the end of a game. 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? But according to the test that the Bremerton School District, in Washington State, is applying to their football coach, these prayers would be questionable.

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. At an Oct. 15 board meeting Bremerton alumnus Wesley Bonetti, who hosts an Atheist Nomads podcast, spoke against the prayer, and the board unanimously reaffirmed its position. For Kennedy’s part, he has thanked his supporters – his Facebook page is filled with messages encouragement – and on Monday posted pictures saying, “this is why I give thanks”.

I don’t think this controversial middle ground is what our school needs.” Q13Fox reported that after Bremerton’s 27-20 win, several players walked to the stands to give Coach Kennedy a hug. We will not be performing a Satanic invocation after tomorrow’s football game, though Chapter members will still be attending to meet and in support of the students, teachers and community members who asked us to come represent their beliefs.

Near the hot dog stand senior Ahneisha Ellison said, “He’s been doing it so long, I don’t know why it’s a problem now.” Another senior, Oceola Lee, said, “All the kids who pray with him do it voluntarily.” Many parents of players were not sure why the school board saw a problem. The group shouted “Amen” when they finished. “I’m willing to take this as far as it goes to defend the rights of the Constitution,to the end,” Kennedy said. “If you believe in something, you stand up.”

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. Later, he told me about his background: Adopted at birth by a couple at first unable to have children, who “didn’t need me anymore” once they started having children of their own. One night, around midnight, he flipped through television channels and came across Facing the Giants, a Christian movie about a football coach who lives out his faith. “I just dropped to my knees and lost it,” Kennedy said. Every year there’s some kid who keeps me coming back. … It’s just these young men, and seeing them become something incredible.” Kennedy said he was at peace with his decision to pray.

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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