Joseph Kennedy, the high school football coach whose legal battle over his on-field prayers reached the U.S. Supreme Court, announced his resignation just one game after being reinstated.
His departure, citing multiple reasons, including family obligations and a desire to advocate for religious liberty, marks the latest twist in a protracted legal and public-relations saga that has spanned nearly a decade.
Kennedy, who served as an assistant coach for the varsity football team at Bremerton High School in Washington State, made his resignation public on a Wednesday evening. He returned to coaching duties briefly before stepping down, sparking controversy as he alleged “retaliation” by the school district.
The coach’s decision comes ahead of the release of his forthcoming book, “Average Joe: The Coach Kennedy Story,” scheduled for October, and a film about his life currently in pre-production, according to a statement from his publicity firm.
Kennedy first gained national attention in 2015 when the school district suspended and eventually terminated him for kneeling in prayer on the field after games. After years of legal battles, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled in his favor in June, with a 6-3 decision. “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 stated. “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.”
Kennedy expressed his gratitude for the Bremerton community, emphasizing that the school would always hold a special place in his heart.
In response to inquiries, the Bremerton School District spokesperson referred to a statement on their website, indicating that Kennedy’s resignation is pending board approval at their upcoming meeting. The district refrained from commenting on personnel matters.
Joseph Kennedy, an 18-year Marine veteran who began his coaching career at Bremerton in 2008, was represented by the First Liberty Institute, a Christian legal organization. Hiram Sasser, executive general counsel at the institute, stated that they are currently investigating reports of “retaliation” against Kennedy to determine whether further legal action is warranted.
In his resignation letter to the district, Kennedy suggested that his decision to step down was in the best interest of all parties involved. He expressed doubts that the Supreme Court’s reinstatement order would be fully upheld, citing a series of actions that he believes singled him out and diminished his role, potentially in retaliation by the school district.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which represented the school district in the legal battle, had previously sought the dismissal of the case, arguing that it was moot because Kennedy had relocated to Florida. However, Kennedy’s legal team contended that he had temporarily moved to care for a sick family member.
In a statement to the Seattle Times, Rachel Laser, President of Americans United, commented on the situation, saying, “For years, Kennedy and his lawyers have said all he wanted was his job back. We were skeptical. And now, here we are, right where we warned the Supreme Court we would be.”