After nearly seven years of being sidelined for his faith, Coach Joe Kennedy finally had his day at the Supreme Court today.
Formerly of Bremerton High School in Washington, Kennedy refused a school district order to stop praying on the 50-yard-line of the team’s field after games.
In his eight years at the school, Kennedy mentored hundreds of football players – young men who considered him a good man to emulate. For the coach, his role on the sidelines wasn’t just a job – but a calling from God. He felt the Lord had placed him there for more reasons than football. To this day, his players (now grown men) routinely laud him and express their appreciation for the influence he had on their lives.
That a man like Joe Kennedy was fired is a glaring illustration of what’s wrong with our nation’s priorities. Schools are supposed to be shaping and speaking into young lives – not harassing good men and women committed to that very mission.
I feel a special kinship to Joe Kennedy, because he reminds me of a man just like him who shaped my own life in a profound way.
I first met my high school football coach, Paul Moro, as an orphaned sophomore who had experienced many tragedies in my short life: my dad walking out on the family when I was 5; Mom dying of cancer four years later; and my traumatic stint in the foster care system.
As you can imagine, I wasn’t doing too well. I desperately needed a mentor to help me transition from boyhood to manhood.
And that’s what Coach Moro did for me. He was a tough, no-nonsense type of guy who pushed me to excellence – but he also showed me great compassion and got involved in the details of my life.
As I’ve gotten to know Joe Kennedy over these years, he reminds me a lot of my Coach Mo – a man of principle and influence who’s motivated by his Christian faith.
In this age of rampant fatherlessness, when about 19.5 million kids in the U.S. live without a dad in the home, we need men like Coach Kennedy to be involved with children who desperately need positive role models.
Instead, Bremerton School District suspended Kennedy because he silently prayed at the end of football games at the 50-yard line, and later refused to renew his contract at the end of the 2015 season.
Kennedy’s quiet prayer time grew in popularity over the years because that’s exactly what our young people want and need – someone to love and care about them. In fact, do you know why the school board went after the coach?
Because someone complimented the school for hiring a man like Joe Kennedy.
It’s absurd to think that, in a sport where concussions and injuries regularly happen, the school district is concerned about a man who silently prays and thanks God for his team and the safety of players. Isn’t this a good thing?
Let’s be reasonable. We cannot simply ignore the assertion in our Declaration of Independence that God has given us inalienable rights – like the freedoms of speech and religion – and that it is the duty of government to “secure” those rights.
I’m hopeful and optimistic that a majority on the Supreme Court will rule in Coach Kennedy’s favor. That’s the way I’m praying – and I hope you will pray for that outcome, too. A majority of the High Court today seemed to be sympathetic to Coach Kennedy’s religious freedom.
As a former teenage boy who was once helped by a man in the mold of Kennedy, I know how important men like him are. As a dad, I prayed for my sons to have coaches and teachers like him – people who live out the principles of honor, hard work, conviction and compassion. These are things we can all agree are right and good. It’s not something to fear. In fact, our culture would benefit in many ways from more Christ followers like Joe Kennedy.
Photo from Twitter.