Eight years ago Joseph Kennedy was fired from his job at the Bremerton School District in Washington state after he took to the field to pray following a football game, a practice that became a tradition for the coach and some students.
Kennedy, who began the practice in 2008, was fired in 2015 after an opposing team complained about the prayer leading to a long and arduous battle in the courts to ensure that Kennedy got his job back, as reported by The Daily Wire.
The case, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, was eventually brought up to the Supreme Court last year leading to the justices ruling in favor of Kennedy in a victory for freedom of speech.
In a 6-3 decision, the court sided with Kennedy acknowledging that the school district violated his freedom of speech and free exercise rights.
Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion that individuals have every right to express their religion openly: “Respect for religious expressions is indispensable to life in a free and diverse republic. Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a personal religious observance, based on a mistaken view that it has a duty to suppress religious observances even as it allows comparable secular speech. The Constitution neither mandates nor tolerates that kind of discrimination.”
The government punished Kennedy for a “brief, quiet, personal religious observance doubly protected by the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment,” Gorsuch wrote, adding, “And the only meaningful justification the government offered for its reprisal rested on a mistaken view that it had a duty to ferret out and suppress.”
Following the ruling, Kennedy was reinstated to his position as the assistant football coach last week with the court ordering the school district to not interfere or punish Kennedy in any way if he decides to once again take a knee in prayer following a game.
In addition to being reinstated, Kennedy received a $1.78 million settlement.
Following the SCOTUS ruling, Kennedy said in a press release that all he ever wanted was to get back onto the field.
“This is just so awesome. All I’ve ever wanted was to be back on the field with my guys.”
“I am incredibly grateful to the Supreme Court, my fantastic legal team, and everyone who has supported us,” he said. “I thank God for answering our prayers and sustaining my family through this long battle.”
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