Roy Exum: Yes, Coach Can Pray

Tuesday, June 28, 2022 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

In 2015 Joe Kennedy, a career Marine, was told by a “woke” crowd of educators that he could no longer be an assistant high school  football coach in Seattle, Washington. The problem was that he publicly knelt and prayed on the field’s 50-yard line after every game and there were some school administrators that felt he was an undue influence on non-religious students.

On Monday – 2,536 days since he was fired – the Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision agreed with Kennedy in a far-ranging ruling that is a victory for religion in America. “I pushed my guys on the field to never stop fighting until the whistle blew, to always give it everything they have until the last down. I simply could not give up my fight, to compromise the commitment I made to God, and keep their respect on the field. I had to keep fighting.”

The affable Kennedy explained, “I suppose fighting is just a part of who I am. I grew up on the streets and seemed to always find a way into a fight somewhere. Thankfully, the Marine Corps allowed me to fight for something that truly mattered: our freedom. Every American deserves someone to fight for them, for their freedom, and I was proud to do so,” he wrote in a FoxNews op-ed.

“When I got out of the Corps, I hoped I would find a new team to fight alongside. I didn’t know that would be as a high school football coach.

“In high school, I was too small to play football. And, there were plenty of other coaches far more qualified to chart the "X’s and O’s" than me. But, I quickly learned to love my guys – the players I was honored to coach. Some of them reminded me of myself: angry at the world, hungry for a meal, needing a safe place to sleep that night, and perhaps a new pair of shoes without holes in them. When they got in trouble at home, school, or even with the law, I could relate. Someone needed to fight for them, too.”

Kennedy has no malice to the three liberal justices who dissented in his case. “Not everyone has agreed with my fight in this case. That’s OK. The American ideal of freedom is strong enough for us to disagree and still love each other as Americans. But we should all agree that no one should be fired from their job just because someone can be seen engaged in a private prayer.

“Fights leave scars too. As a boxer and mixed martial arts fighter, my nose took a beating from bouts in the ring and octagon. The pain in this case came from the scars it has left on those closest to me. My wife and kids have taken the brunt of it. When my case started, my kids were still attending the school where I coached and my wife was the school district’s director of human resources. It hurt all of us to go through this, but we did it together.”

Kennedy has since moved to Florida but is hopeful to get his coaching job back in Washington State.

“In every fight, someone loses. Too many times in the last nearly seven years, I’ve had one question haunt me if I let it: What if I lose?  Not only would that mean I would never be back on the football field, but it meant that my case might mean other coaches and teachers could lose their job. Worse, a small part of the Constitution I swore to defend in the U.S. Marine Corps would be weakened, not because of a fight I lost on the battlefield, but in a courtroom.

“Thankfully, though, this fight is won. I hope it means that our public school teachers and coaches don’t have to hide their faith from view. For my part, I can’t wait to get back to the field, to be with my guys, pushing them to be the best players that they can be, to give everything they have for every second of every game.

Win or lose, he says, “when the whistle blows and everyone shakes hands, you’ll find me at the 50-yard line on a knee … in private prayer.”

royexum@aol.com


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