Some may call it coincidence, others just may look upon it as bitterly ironic. Regardless how any given individuals may look upon the situation at Bremerton High School (BHS), many may agree that the entire situation as at least curious. Especially in a Western culture where all ages of participants in organized sports from baseball to football to track to soccer have been known to execute a quick Sign of the Cross or momentarily kneel in prayer to thank the Almighty in the heat of competition.
As reported by Gene Johnson and Lisa Baumann of the Associated Press (via Seattle’s KOMOnews.com) updated on Oct. 20, 2015, and also by Christine Clarridge of the Seattle Times updated on Oct. 28, 2015, Bremerton HS’s quite private but unmistakably Christian assistant football coach Joe Kennedy was given his walking papers in the form of administrative leave. On the very same day, the chapter head of the local Satanic Temple publicly announced their upcoming visit to BHS directly in response to the brouhaha regarding Coach Kennedy’s orders to cease and desist his habit of taking a personal moment after every game to give a prayer of thanksgiving, albeit on the field.
Formerly known as Gunnery Sergeant Joseph Kennedy, US Marine Corps, Coach Kennedy has been retired from his beloved Corps since 2008. But upon ending his career in the Marine Corps, the lantern-jawed Gunny transitioned seamlessly into another profession where he would have a positive effect on red-blooded American boys – that of being one of the coaching staff on BHS’s football and wrestling squads.
While the coach has a 7-year long habit of very quietly going to the 50 yard line after each game to kneel for literally a few moments to offer a silent prayer of thanks to the God of his understanding, no one seemed to as much even notice what Kennedy was doing as the team headed for the locker room, and the crowd was emptying the stands to head for the parking lot. While whatever Kennedy initially prayed about is known only to he and his God, it was widely understood this particular act was something very private and very personal to Kennedy.
No players, students, school staff or spectators have yet to come forward to accuse the coach of as much as implying that anyone other than himself should feel compelled to partake of his private devotional. However, a handful of players eventually decided for themselves to join the coach at the 50. “It isn’t a big deal at all,” said Brandon Chavez, who played football during his freshman year. “I prayed because I’m Catholic, but some walked off. There was never any pressure.”
As time went by, a few players queried the coach what was it exactly he was praying about. “I was thanking God for you guys,” Kennedy plainly responded. Kennedy also stated, “Then a couple said they were Christians and asked if they could join. I responded, ‘It’s a free country, you can do whatever you want to do.’”
What started as just a few players slowly became a noticeable number of players and coaches — from both BHS and whichever school was their opposition that week — joining Kennedy for a joined private moment of reverence to their God and respect for each other. Eventually that noticeable number caught the notice of Aaron Leavell, the Superintendent of the Bremerton School District. It was during last September that Leavell ordered Coach Kennedy’s “existing problematic practices do not continue” stating that Kennedy was violating the Constitution of the United States of America with his 15 to 20-second-long prayer.
With Kennedy being represented by the Texas-based Liberty Institute, the coach has decided to fight the school district. As noted by the Liberty Institute, “On Monday, October 26, Coach Joe Kennedy and his legal team at Liberty Institute announced that they are initiating legal proceedings against the school for violating Coach Kennedy’s rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by refusing to honor his reasonable request for religious accommodation.”
Nonetheless, Lilith Starr of the Seattle chapter of the Satanic Temple announced her 42-member strong group would be attending this week’s BHS home game. Incidentally, Starr’s public notification was on the same day that Kennedy was banned from setting foot on the field.
“It’ll definitely be a theatrical production – robes, incense, we have a gong,” Starr said. “There are a number of students and teachers at Bremerton High who don’t feel like they’re being represented on the football field.” Neither students nor faculty at BHS have identified themselves as being those discriminated against due to Kennedy’s momentary prayer.
The Associated Press reported that the school district “did not respond to a request for comment regarding the group.” Depending on one’s outlook, either coincidentally or ironically, Bremerton’s official Knight mascot is described by the school’s Facebook page as being armed with The Sword of Justice and donning over his shoulders The Cape of Truth.