The Latest: Praying coach, Satanists attend game

30 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

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

A Washington state high school coach on paid leave because he refused to stop praying on the field prayed in front of the bleachers after attending the Bremerton High School football game. A football field in Washington state has become more than a battleground for athletes as the suspension of an assistant coach for praying at midfield after games divided people around the country over the religious rights of school employees.

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. 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,” the Bremerton school district said. Students swarmed the fence where the Satanists stood outside.The group climbed the fence, shook it, held up crosses, threw liquid, and chanted “Jesus.” Some yelled at the Satanists to go away.

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”. Kennedy initially complied with the district’s directive until Liberty Institute, a religious-freedom organization based in Texas, encouraged him to resume the prayers.

We all just took it upon ourselves.” Bremerton’s game against Sequim was also attended by members of the Satanic Temple of Seattle, clad in black robes. His lawyers insist he is not leading students in prayer, but rather doing so on his own while kneeling at the 50-yard line. “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’s statement said. 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 on 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 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 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. Kennedy has prayed before and after games, sometimes joined by students, since 2008, but the district asked him to stop when the practice recently came to its attention. On his Facebook page, where supporters were posting messages, Kennedy urged people to “forget me and come support these incredible young men” playing Thursday. 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.

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