The biggest thing that happened on the Bremerton High School football field Friday night had nothing to do with the game. Instead, all eyes were on Coach Joe Kennedy — the target of another unconstitutional scheme to kick prayer out of the public domain. After seven years of praying at the midfield line after games, Friday’s prayer may have been the most meaningful yet, because it could have very well cost the coach his job.
A few weeks after the district superintendent told Joe to end his 50-yard-line routine, the coach backed off for a few weeks and then reconsidered. When the final buzzer sounds, no one, he told reporters, is forcing his players to join in the prayer. They come, he said, because they want to. Never in his wildest dreams did he think this would become the firestorm it has. But firestorm or no, the Marine vet wasn’t backing down.
On Friday, out of protection for his team, he asked the players to stay on the sidelines when he took a knee at midfield. This time, though, as soon as he closed his eyes, he said, “I feel all these people around me. I’m like, God, I hope those aren’t kids. I’m sitting there and I’m going, ‘God, thank you for this opportunity. And … if this is the last time I step on the field with these guys…” Turns out, it wasn’t his players, but the entire opposing team and fans — who all joined the coach to show their support.
Later, in an emotional interview with reporters, a tearful Kennedy told the media, “Whatever happens happens, you know,” he said, according to a local Washington newspaper. “But I’m going to be bold in my faith and I’m going to fight the good fight, and I want to set that example for every one of the kids if you believe in something.” On that, he’s more than succeeded. “If the school is concerned that the coach’s prayer may be interpreted as government speech,” said Liberty Institute attorney Hiram Sasser, “there is an easy solution: the school district can simply say that the coach’s prayer is his own speech. Then they should stand back and let him pray.”
In the meantime, we all continue to cheer Coach Kennedy on. He’s the perfect example of courage in a world that desperately needs more Christians to stand up and challenge these repressive dictates. If we don’t use our rights, we’ll lose them! We must keep that from happening.
Tony Perkins heads the Family Research Council. This article is excerpted from the Washington Update that he compiles for the FRC.