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Bill Introduced That Allows Coaches to Participate in Prayer

News Staff : Jan 30, 2017
CBN News

If passed, it would impose penalties between $5,000 to $20,000 on districts that prohibit such prayer.

airlift(Olympia, WA)[CBN News] A Washington state lawmaker has introduced a bill that would allow coaches and other school staff to take part in post-game prayers. (Photo: Joe Kennedy/via CBN News)

Rep. Jesse Young, Republican, Gig Harbor, introduced legislation earlier this week in response to a 2015 incident where former Bremerton assistant football coach Joe Kennedy was ordered to stop holding post-game prayers on the football field.

As CBN News reported, Kennedy had participated and led prayers after each game since 2008. Participation was voluntary and Kennedy said that even players from other high school teams would join them.

"It's not the X's and O's and winning football games," he said. "It's watching these guys overcoming the things that they go through in life and emerging as a stronger person because of it and knowing that you get them for such a strong time in their life and getting to be part of it."

"That's a blessing," he added. "That's what God called me to do."

The school prayer did not become an issue until September of 2015 when the school district began to fear that it was against the law. District officials asked Kennedy to stop the prayers but he continued.

Kennedy was placed on paid leave, but his contract was not renewed for the following year. Now he is suing the district. He is not seeking monetary compensation but is asking to be rehired and to be allowed to pray on the field after games.

Young's bill, known as HB 1602, would make it legal for coaches and other school administration to take part in prayer on school grounds once the school day has ended.

If passed, it would impose penalties between $5,000 to $20,000 on districts that prohibit such prayer.

HB 1602 says that freedom of speech and freedom of religion are paramount rights.

"New legislation may be required to help school districts, employees, parents, and students better understand the limits of regulation, prayer and free speech in this context," Young and state Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Port Orchard wrote to the Bremerton School Board in September 2015.