Sen. James Lankford defends Washington state high school coach who was …

29 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Bremerton High coach Joe Kennedy, who prayed after games, placed on leave.

In this Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, file photo, Bremerton High assistant footbal coach Joe Kennedy, center in blue, kneels and prays after his team lost to Centralia in Bremerton, Wash. (Lindsey Wasson | The Seattle Times via The Associated Press) SEATTLE (AP) — The coach of a Washington state high school football team who prayed at games despite orders from the school district to stop has been placed on paid administrative. Bremerton School District officials said in a statement late Wednesday that assistant football coach Joe Kennedy’s leave was necessitated because of his refusal to comply with district directives that he refrain from engaging in overt, public religious displays on the football field while on duty as a coach. That earlier letter, which followed Kennedy’s October 16 decision to once again pray again on the field, threatened discipline and potential firing if the prayer practice continued, according to Kennedy’s lawyers at the Liberty Institute, a conservative legal firm.

His lawyers insist he is not leading students in prayer, just praying himself. “While the district appreciates Kennedy’s many positive contributions to the BHS football program, and therefore regrets the necessity of this action, 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. The district said that Kennedy would remain employed by the district for the term of his contract as the junior varsity coach and assistant varsity coach. The controversy has focused attention on the role of religion in public schools and brought national attention to Bremerton, a city of 40,000 across the Puget Sound from Seattle.

The group says its mission is “defending and preserving religious liberty in America.” “We’re prepared to take the necessary legal actions to defend Coach Kennedy’s religious freedom,” Berry said. “His religious expression is not something he should hide or be ashamed of.” Another Liberty lawyer called the paid leave a hostile employment action and said the group would file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Also this week, The Satanic Temple, which has 42 members in its Seattle chapter, announced that its members were open to being invited to a game, and a few students and teachers extended such invitations.

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