A former high school football coach who was fired for praying with his student players has won a significant payout close to $2 million.
Joseph Kennedy, the former coach, will receive $1,775,000 in settlement payout after being sacked by the Bremerton School District in Washington state.
The district voted unanimously to approve the payout and allowed Kennedy to return as an assistant football coach for the 2023 season at Bremerton High School.
In addition, he will receive a stipend of $5,304 for the season.
School board president Alyson Rotter said: “We look forward to moving past the distraction of this nearly eight-year legal battle so that our school community can focus on what matters most: providing our children the best education possible.”
The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Kennedy’s favor in June, which was the first dose of vindication for the former coach.
The court found that Kennedy’s right to kneel with student athletes and pray on the field after games was protected by the Constitution.
Kennedy began his coaching career with Bremerton High School in 2008.
He started out praying alone on the 50-yard line at the end of games.
Over time, students began to join him, and he also began to deliver a short inspirational speech chock-full of religious references as well as leading students in locker room prayers.
Everything was fine for years until 2015 when the school board received complaints that some athletes felt pressured to join in.
So, Kennedy stopped pressuring his students but continued to pray on-field after the game.
However, he was put on paid leave and then did not get rehired for the next season as he had failed to ‘follow district policy’.
After the settlement payout was approved, Kennedy spoke to the media and said, “It is just incredible to know that I did nothing wrong. Everything I did was fine. I had a commitment with God that I’d give him thanks after every football game, win or lose.” He added: “And that’s the way I started out.”
The Bremerton School District in Washington state has made changes to its policies since the case began.
The district has revised its policy on religious expression, allowing staff to pray or engage in other religious activities while not officially representing the school.