Joseph Kennedy, who won a Supreme Court battle for the right to return to the sidelines as a football coach, resigned from his position on Wednesday. The surprising move comes just days after he assumed a coaching role in the district where he had previously been fired.
In recent years, Kennedy has been at the center of national attention after claiming that he was terminated from his role as a football coach at Bremerton High School (Wash.) for his refusal to stop praying at midfield following games.
After a Supreme Court ruling last summer that paved the way for his return to coach, Kennedy was once again on the sidelines this past weekend as an assistant coach at Bremerton. And, following the game, Kennedy knelt in prayer by himself in the middle of the field.
In a statement obtained by the USA TODAY Network, Kennedy explained why he is leaving his coaching job just days after his return to the sidelines:
“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 said in the statement.
“I will continue to work to help people understand and embrace the historic ruling at the heart of the case. As a result of our case, we all have more freedom, not less. That should be celebrated and respected and not disrespected.”
On Friday, Bremerton beat Mount Douglas 27-12 in their season opener.
At issue in the firing was whether Kennedy’s role as a football coach led players at the public school to feel pressured into participating in a religious activity at the public school. Players sometimes joined Kennedy to pray, although he claims in his court case that participation was voluntary and never was forced.
Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, in writing the opinion of the court last June, stated that Kennedy’s prayers following the game did not warrant termination:
“That Mr. Kennedy offered his prayers when students were engaged in other activities like singing the school fight song further suggests that those prayers were not delivered as an address to the team, but instead in his capacity as a private citizen.”