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High school football coach who lost job for praying on field after games to be reinstated

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(NEW YORK) — A public high school football coach in Washington state who famously lost his job for leading prayers on the field after games will be reinstated by the spring of next year, court documents show.

A joint stipulation filed in Washington state district court on Tuesday by attorneys representing Joseph Kennedy and lawyers for Bremerton School District stated that “Kennedy is to be reinstated to his previous position as assistant coach of the Bremerton High School football team on or before March 15, 2023.”

The United States Supreme Court sided with Kennedy in June, when justices ruled 6-3 that the coach was protected by the Constitution when he knelt and prayed aloud at the 50-yard-line post-game, sometimes with his players.

Lower courts had repeatedly sided with Bremerton School District in the case. The Supreme Court reversal in favor of Kennedy could soon expand the ability of government employees nationwide to practice their faiths more openly while on the job, according to legal experts.

Kennedy filed suit against the school district after he was suspended in 2015 over the midfield prayers and his contract was not renewed. He insisted the prayers were brief, private individual acts of faith, while the school district argued that student participation breached constitutional prohibitions against the promotion of religion by government officials.

Kennedy had routinely prayed on the field after games for more than seven years, attracting varying levels of participation from students. But it wasn’t until 2015 that the school district informed the coach of constitutional concerns. The school district explained at the time in a statement that the prayers violated “constitutionally-required directives that he refrain from engaging in overt, public religious displays on the football field while on duty.”

Kennedy currently lives in Florida but told the court that he would move back to Bremerton to return to coaching, if the justices ruled in his favor.

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