Praying Football Coach Joe Kennedy Quits, Claims Retaliation

Kennedy at practice last week in his crucifix t-shirt

After winning a U.S. Supreme Court case to get his coaching job back and igniting a firestorm over praying in public schools, Joe Kennedy resigned only one game into Bremerton High School’s football season.

“The district has received Mr. Kennedy’s resignation and it is pending board approval at tomorrow’s regularly scheduled meeting,” spokesperson Karen Bevers said in an email Wednesday, declining further comment.

He strongly hinted before Friday’s game that he might not stick around for his part-time assistant coaching gig. He said the game was a “fine bow” on top of his Supreme Court victory, which cleared the way not only for his return after an eight-year absence but for him to pray on the field. He said he couldn’t think further ahead than that.

In a resignation letter obtained by The Seattle Times, he expressed dissatisfaction with the district. “It is apparent that the reinstatement ordered by the Supreme Court will not be fully followed after a series of actions meant to diminish my role and single me out in what I can only believe is retaliation by the school district.”

He gave no indication of such feelings in an interview last week, and it isn’t clear what actions he’s referring to. Kennedy also said in the letter that he’s returning to Florida, where he now lives, because of newly learned complications related to a family member’s declining health. He said previously that he moved to Pensacola to be near his wife’s father.


Protestant Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch wrote: “Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance” 

Praying Football Coach Quits After Returning For 1 Game

“In February 2022, Americans United told the Supreme Court this case should be dismissed as moot because Kennedy no longer lived in Bremerton and so had no intention of resuming his coaching job. Kennedy and his attorneys failed to notify the Court of his decisive, 3,000-mile move from Washington to Florida, which should have ended the case. Only after AU pointed out that there was no longer a viable case to decide did Kennedy’s attorneys argue that Kennedy was ‘ready, willing, and able to move back to Bremerton as soon as humanly possible should he be permitted to resume his coaching duties.’ He wasn’t. After the Supreme Court’s decision last summer, Kennedy and his attorneys claimed he’d be on the ‘first flight’ back to resume his coaching job, but he was a no-show in August 2022 when the district offered to rehire him in time for the 2022 football season. For years Kennedy and his lawyers have said all he wanted was his job back. We were skeptical. And now, here we are, right where we warned the Supreme Court we would be.

“First Liberty was able to generate yet another media spectacle around Kennedy’s fabricated ‘return’ to coaching – just in time to promote the release of his new book and forthcoming movie. Our client, the Bremerton School District, has gone above and beyond to respect employees’ religious freedom while also protecting students’ religious freedom and the community’s safety and right to enjoy school-sponsored events. With the end of this 8-year legal battle in sight, we hope First Liberty will finally allow the district to fully concentrate on its priority: providing children the best education possible.”


Kennedy was back on the sideline for the first time in nearly eight years last Friday night, but he said beforehand that he had mixed feelings about it and wasn’t sure he’d keep coaching.

“Knowing that everybody’s expecting me to go do this kind of gives me a lot of angst in my stomach,” Kennedy told the AP. “People are going to freak out that I’m bringing God back into public schools.”

After the game — a 27-12 win over visiting Mount Douglas Secondary School — Kennedy strode alone to midfield, then knelt and prayed for about 10 seconds.

Kennedy was not joined by any athletes or others on the nearly empty field.


“I have no plans to leave,” he said. “I’m going to do whatever God tells me to do.” – Kennedy last Friday

No scripture and/or proselytizing

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