AFA Calls for Supreme Court to Honor Constitutional Rights of High School Football Coach Fired for Praying and Hear His Case

American Family Association Supports Coach Joe Kennedy in His Bid for Supreme Court Ruling

July 26, 2021

TUPELO, Miss. —Coach Joe Kennedy, a former Washington state high school football coach, was fired in 2015 when his silent post-game prayers were joined by players and caught attention. Now it appears Kennedy’s prayers may have been answered as the Supreme Court considers hearing his case, according to a recent CBN article. CNN reports that “later this fall, the justices will consider whether to take up the long-running case that involves Coach Joe Kennedy of the Bremerton School District in Washington, who alleged his rights were violated when the school district prohibited him from praying at the conclusion of football games.”

American Family Association (AFA, Executive Vice President Ed Vitagliano commented on the case and the possibility that public prayer will be tried in the Supreme Court. “It is absurd that in a country like America, with the sort of constitutional protections we have in the Bill of Rights, this travesty should ever have happened in the first place. However, we can certainly hope––and pray––that the Supreme Court finally begins to cut away the tangled reasonings of past rulings and set forth a clear affirmation of religious liberty.”

Coach Kennedy prayed alone and silently, but his dedication to prayer caught the attention of both players on his team as well as the opposing team. When the 50-yard-line prayer became a regular occurrence, school officials—worried the district could be accused of endorsing religion—demanded the practice cease. When Kennedy continued, he was fired. Kennedy sued, saying the dismissal violated his First Amendment right to free speech. When Ninth Circuit Court and appeals courts ruled for the school, Kennedy asked the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) to hear his case.

In 2019, SCOTUS returned the case to the district court, stating more facts were needed. Justice Alito wrote, “The Ninth Circuit’s understanding of the free speech rights of public school teachers is troubling and may justify review in the future.” After a years-long battle through lower courts, the future has nearly arrived for Coach Kennedy.

First Liberty Institute General Counsel Hiram Sasser, part of the team representing Kennedy, told Fox News they believe this time the Supreme Court will hear Joe Kennedy’s case: “We are very confident, in light of Justice Alito’s previous statement regarding this case, that the Court will take this case and side with religious freedom. We anticipate asking the Court to take the case later in the Fall.”

Vitagliano concluded, “A man should be able to pray in public and not be punished for it. Period. It should not matter if that man is a high school coach, because Christians––and those from all faiths––should not be shamed for practicing their religion in the public square.”

For over 40 years, AFA has operated within the mission to inform, equip and activate individuals to strengthen the moral foundations of American culture and give aid to the church here and abroad in its task of fulfilling the Great Commission. Find AFA Action Alerts here.       

AFA—founded in 1977—has long been on the front lines of America’s culture war. Today, AFA is one of the largest and most effective pro-family organizations in the country, with nearly a million online supporters and approximately 160,000 subscribers to the AFA Journal, the ministry’s monthly magazine. In addition, AFA owns and operates nearly 180 radio stations across the country under the American Family Radio banner.  

View the media page for AFA here. For more information on American Family Association, or follow AFA on Facebook or Twitter @AmericanFamAssc.       


To interview American Family Association Executive Vice President Ed Vitagliano or another AFA spokesperson, contact, Beth Harrison, 610.584.1096, ext. 105, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.