There’s a scene in the great football film “Facing the Giants” when the coach decides to implement a new coaching philosophy – to praise God no matter what the result.
Joe Kennedy, a football coach at Bremerton High School in Washington, was so inspired by the film he decided to embrace that philosophy – knowing that to do so could cost him his job. I’ll explain why in just a few more paragraphs.
Kennedy, a Desert Storm and Desert Shield combat veteran, made national headlines in September after the Bremerton School District launched an investigation into his post-game prayer.
Coach Kennedy plans on praying at midfield on Friday night.
Since 2008, Coach Kennedy would walk to the 50-yard line where he would offer a short prayer of thanksgiving for the safety of the players, the fairness of the game and for spirited competition. Over the years, students joined the coach – all voluntarily.
“I’m being investigated for thanking God for the opportunities that have been given me,” he said. “It’s absolutely ridiculous.”
The Bremerton School District eventually issued a three-page letter to the coach – forbidding him from praying before or after high school football games.
“I spent 20 years in the military defending the Constitution and the freedoms that everybody has,” the coach told me. “All of a sudden, I realized that people who work for the public schools don’t have the same constitutional rights that everyone else has.”
The Bremerton School District took specific issue with the coach’s pre-game locker room prayer as well as his post-game inspirational talk at midfield. “Problematic practices,” is how they phrased it.
“Your talks with students may not include religious express, including prayer,” Superintendent Aaron Leavell wrote in a Sept. 17th letter to the coach. “They must remain entirely secular in nature, so as to avoid alienation of any team member.”