A high school assistant football coach in Washington state who won a seven-year fight for his right to pray on the sidelines resigned Wednesday after only one game back.

In a statement, Joe Kennedy announced his resignation from Bremerton High School. The release said there were “multiple reasons” for his resignation, including returning to Florida, where he’d been living, to care for an “ailing family member.” No other reasons were specified.

“I believe I can best continue to advocate for constitutional freedom and religious liberty by working from outside the school system, so that is what I will do,” Kennedy said in the statement.

“I will continue to work to help people understand and embrace the historic ruling at the heart of our case. As a result of our case, we all have more freedom, not less. That should be celebrated and not disrespected.”

Bremerton School District confirmed that Kennedy had submitted his resignation, reported The The Associated Press, though school officials declined to comment further.

The Deseret News’ Kelsey Dallas reported that during the 2015 football season, Kennedy was asked by school leadership to be discreet in his sideline praying. He complied for a time while he consulted with attorneys. But a legal battle started that same year over the issue and continued until June 2022, when the Supreme Court ruled in Kennedy’s favor.

But the school saw things quite differently, Dallas reported.

A praying football coach makes his case
Supreme Court sides with football coach in school prayer case

What did the opposing attorney say?

View Comments

Rachel Laser, the president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and who represented the high school in the court case, told The New York Times the resignation was “just one more example of why the Supreme Court should not have taken this case in the first place.”

“All along, a shadow network of religious extremists was using this case to advance a Christian nationalist agenda to infuse Christianity into our public schools. They cared little about true religious freedom for students, families and employees at Bremerton or any other public school.”

What did the Supreme Court say?

The Supreme Court voted 6-3 in favor of Kennedy, with Justice Neil Gorsuch writing in the majority opinion: “The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.”

“Kennedy’s private religious exercise did not come close to crossing any line one might imagine separating protected private expression from impermissible government coercion,” Gorsuch wrote.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.