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I Earned My Religious Freedom Suit, Now I Want To Get Back To Coaching And Winning On The Court

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Just weeks after the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Bremerton School District violated my constitutional rights, some are wondering why I’m not back in the field yet. I am still determined to return to the field as soon as the district court finalizes my reinstatement. However, the district seems determined to make stone walls.

My lawyers tried to do all the legal stuff with the school district. I specifically asked them to do whatever they can to bring my case to a successful conclusion, which will help our community heal. I know it has been hard on my friends and family in Bremerton. My hope has been to return to the sidelines with as little fanfare and negative impact on our team as possible. New coaches typically transition to a team in the spring. It seemed more sensible than trying to skydive right at the start of the season. It would give us all time to rediscover ourselves and develop relationships with the kids I would be coaching.

For that to happen, either we can work this out across the table, or a judge can order the district to take me back by then. I would prefer the former, but the district seems determined to avoid meeting me.


On July 11, 2022, my attorneys wrote to Michael Tierney – the school’s local attorney – requesting a face-to-face meeting to resolve any remaining issues in the case. Almost a month later – after the start of a new superintendent in Bremerton – Mr Tierney finally responded on August 4, 2022, saying: “As for a face-to-face meeting, we don’t see that would be helpful. .”

Coach Joe Kennedy tries to settle returning to his job after winning in court.
(First Freedom Institute)

My lawyers renewed our request to meet in person on August 8, 2022. Mr. Tierney replied the same day: “I disagree that this is an effort that is best accomplished in a meeting. in person.”

So we asked the judge to intervene. On August 26, 2022, Judge Robert Lasnik ordered us all to engage in “settlement discussions” to determine when I should be reinstated and whether the district’s insurance could cover at least a portion of the substantial amount of court fees. attorney the school has to pay for stripping me of my constitutional rights. These discussions, Lasnik wrote, “must involve at least a face-to-face meeting or a conference call.”

I am – and have been – prepared to meet with the district whenever they wish. Instead, the district sat down with a Seattle Times columnist.

In addition to refusing to meet with me in person since they suspended me in 2015, the district has quietly adopted a new policy, which appears to contradict the opinion and common sense of the United States Supreme Court.

For example, the new policy requires a 25-foot buffer zone for any teacher or coach engaged in “personal conduct” on school property. I don’t know what that means for the teacher checking a text message while walking down the hall for lunch, but to me it would give a “rowdy veto” – something Judge Neil Gorsuch warned against – to any student who disagrees with my prayer by simply stepping over the 41 yard line when I kneel at 50. And if that means a teacher can’t sign themselves within 25 feet of a student in the dining room, I think the district is asking for another trial.


But all I want is to end my trial and get back on the sidelines doing what I love. And the last thing I want to do is hurt the players or the team. That’s why I thought it would be best for me to aim for a comeback in the spring. The football season begins in the spring and summer with conditioning, learning the playbook and bonding as a team. Getting to the halfway point isn’t fair for kids who only get one chance to play high school football. I can wait.


But the district seems to want to keep fighting and would rather talk to reporters than my lawyers. Maybe their goal is to make it as difficult as possible for me to return to training, so I’ll just give up. It’s not going to happen. I want to fix this as soon as possible, but the district – after two months of refusing to meet in person and having to be ordered by the judge to meet with us – still hasn’t identified anyone in the district who is cleared to solve the remaining problems and put me back on the sidelines.

Like most teachers and coaches, I love coaching and getting the best out of my guys on the pitch. It is the red tape that is so often discouraging. I still believe we can work things out if we could just sit down and talk. It didn’t work seven years ago. I hope it will be now.


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