The high school football coach whose termination for his postgame, on-field prayers was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in June will return to work in Bremerton, Washington, by mid-March, according to a joint stipulation filed by attorneys for both sides.
Joseph Kennedy “is to be reinstated to his previous position as assistant coach of the Bremerton High School football team on or before March 15, 2023,” states the joint stipulation filed Tuesday.
However, the Bremerton School District “may require Kennedy to complete all necessary hiring forms and certifications” before he can resume supervising players, the stipulation states.
Both parties agreed that the district “shall not interfere with or prohibit Kennedy from offering a prayer consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion,” although the stipulation says “the parties disagree on the specific wording of this portion of the injunction.”
The two sides also disagree on how the injunction’s “declaratory relief” statement should be worded. The parties will return Nov. 8 to U.S. District Court in Tacoma to propose solutions to the wording disagreements.
The school district also agreed it would not “retaliate or take any future adverse employment action” against Mr. Kennedy for praying on the field after a game.
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The stipulation also states that Mr. Kennedy can receive “reasonable attorney’s fees and costs,” with the coach having 60 days to submit an application once a final judgment is rendered.
Jeremy Dys, a senior counsel at First Liberty Institute, the public-interest law firm that represented Mr. Kennedy, hailed the stipulation as another victory for the prayerful coach.
“The Supreme Court very clearly said, back in June, that Coach Kennedy was entitled to his relief that he sought in his complaint and what he sought in his complaint was to get his job back,” Mr. Dys said.
“The good news is the school district has understood that it’s time for Coach Kennedy to come back to Bremerton and be on the field again. And he’ll be back on that field on or before March 15 of 2023,” he added.
Michael Barry Tierney and Paul Correa, attorneys representing the Bremerton School District, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Kennedy had indicated he was ready to return to the job after the Supreme Court ruling, but he was not on the field when the Bremerton High School team took the field in September.
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The fired coach fought a seven-year legal battle to get his job back after his contract was not renewed following the dispute over his public prayers which students occasionally joined.
The case centered on whether his prayer constituted a “state-sponsored” action because he was employed by the school district. The high court found that his prayers were private, even though the district said some students and parents felt uncomfortable by the on-field action.