Washington School District to Pay $1.8 Million in Legal Fees for Public Prayer Lawsuit

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High school football coach Joe Kennedy has reached a $1.8 million settlement with the Washington school district that placed him on administrative leave in 2015 for praying on the field.

The Bremerton School District Board of Directors voted unanimously on March 16 in favor of the settlement to cover Kennedy’s legal expenses. His attorneys took his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in Kennedy’s favor in June 2022.

Kennedy has also been reinstated and will return to the school as an assistant football coach for the 2023 season.

Jeremy Dys is senior counsel at First Liberty Institute, the legal organization that represented Kennedy in his lawsuit.

Dys said he’s glad Bremerton High School will welcome Kennedy back.

“After the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that Coach Kennedy praying by himself at the 50-yard line after games he coached was entirely consistent with the U.S. Constitution, his return to the field was inevitable,” Dys said in a previous statement to The Epoch Times.

Kennedy used to pray by himself on the 50-yard line at the end of games, but eventually, several students noticed and started joining him. He also gave short inspirational talks in which he cited God and religion. When the school district learned of this practice, they asked him to stop and eventually placed him on leave in 2015 when he refused to comply.

Kennedy did not reapply for his position the following season, the school district said.

The football coach later sued the school district on the grounds that his post-game ritual was protected under the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Kennedy’s favor in June 2022, finding that the First Amendment protected Kennedy’s right to pray on the field. A federal court in Washington ruled in October that the Bremerton School District had to rehire Kennedy by March 2023.

In a statement on its website dated March 17, the Bremerton school board said that Kennedy would be an assistant coach for the 2023 season.

By Elizabeth Dowell

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