(NewsNation) — A former Washington state high school football coach will be reinstated after a legal battle over his decision to lead prayers on the field after games, according to an ABC News report.
The attorney representing former coach Joe Kennedy confirmed to ABC News that Kennedy has plans to move from Florida and return to Bremerton, Washington, where he will pick back up at his part-time coaching gig. Kennedy could be on the field again by the fall 2023 season, ABC News reported.
Kennedy began coaching at Bremerton High School in 2008 and initially prayed alone on the 50-yard line at the end of games.
Students started joining him, and over time he began to deliver a short, inspirational talk with religious references. Kennedy did that for years and also led students in locker room prayers. The school district learned what he was doing in 2015 and asked him to stop.
Kennedy stopped leading students in prayer in the locker room and on the field but wanted to continue praying on the field himself, with students free to join if they wished.
Concerned about being sued for violating students’ religious freedom rights, the school asked him to stop his practice of kneeling and praying while still “on duty” as a coach after the game.
When he continued to kneel and pray on the field, the school put him on paid leave.
The Supreme Court sided with Kennedy in June, in a decision that could have the power to strengthen the acceptability of some religious practices in public school settings.
In its 6-3 ruling, the court justices said the coach’s prayer was protected by the First Amendment.
It’s unclear how Kennedy’s after-game prayers might be accommodated should he choose to reintroduce them upon his return.