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High school football assistant fired for praying on field, then backed by the Supreme Court, resigns

An assistant football coach in Washington state who lost his job after he prayed on the field following games and then got it back because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year, resigned Wednesday with the promise he’ll continue to fight for religious liberty.

Joe Kennedy, a varsity coach at Bremerton High School, lost his job in 2015 and fought a yearslong legal battle to get it back.

In a statement on his website, Kennedy cited several reasons for stepping down, including taking care of a sick family member. He also said he will continue to fight for his religious beliefs.

“I believe I can best continue to advocate for constitutional freedom and religious liberty by working from outside the school system so that is what I will do,” the statement said. “I will continue to work to help people understand and embrace the historic ruling at the heart of our case. As a result of our case, we all have more freedom, not less. That should be celebrated and not disrespected.”

People should fight for their freedom to express their religious views, Kennedy added.

“As I have demonstrated, we must make a stand for what we believe in. In my case, I made a stand to take a knee. I encourage all Americans to make their own stand for freedom and our right to express our faith as we see fit,” he said.

A representative for Kennedy said Wednesday afternoon in an email that he had no additional comment.

A spokesperson for the Bremerton School District confirmed in an email Wednesday that the school system received Kennedy’s resignation, which is pending approval at Thursday’s regularly scheduled board meeting. The spokesperson declined to comment further.

Kennedy first was suspended and later was fired because “he prayed a brief, quiet prayer after football games,” according to a statement on his website. A lawsuit was filed against the school district arguing it violated the Constitution, according to Kennedy’s website.

The nation’s highest court, which leans conservative, ruled 6-3 last year that Kennedy did have the right to pray on the field after games.

The district had said it was trying to avoid the appearance that it was endorsing a religious point of view. Also at issue was the concern that players may have felt they had to participate or risk feeling separated from the team.

Kennedy insisted on praying publicly at midfield after games, and the district placed him on leave and declined to renew his contract.

On Friday, Kennedy was back on the sidelines coaching for the first time in nearly eight years. But he indicated he might not stay on the job for long.

“Knowing that everybody’s expecting me to go do this kind of gives me a lot of angst in my stomach,” Kennedy told The Associated Press. “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 moved alone to midfield, then knelt and prayed for about 10 seconds.

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