Praying football coach placed on paid administrative leave

On Wednesday night, the Bremerton School District released a statement that Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy has been placed on paid administrative leave.

In September, district officials sent Kennedy a letter, raising concerns about his tradition of pregame prayers in the locker room and postgame prayers at the 50-yard line.

Kennedy said he agreed to stop pregame prayers in the locker rooms, because players were required to be at those gatherings.

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But, after first complying with the district's directive against postgame prayers, Kennedy said that he would resume his tradition at the school's homecoming game on Oct. 17.

After the team's loss, Kennedy prayed on the field.

He was surprised to find himself surrounded by members of the opposing team, who were praying with him in solidarity.

Bremerton coach prays on the field after game

#Bremerton Coach Kennedy decided to #pray on the field last night—despite an order not to from the school. >> was surprised to find himself surrounded by players of the team they had just played against—praying with him in solidarity.

Posted by KIRO 7 News on Saturday, October 17, 2015

Kennedy is represented by the religious rights group Liberty Institute.

"We tried to meet with the school officials in-person but they refused to meet. We were only able to have a brief hour and a half call with their lawyer, and the result was a letter banning private prayer just a few hours before last Friday's game. It is unfortunate this school district is choosing litigation instead of a simple meeting,” said Hiram Sasser, deputy chief counsel for Liberty Institute.

Since 2008, Kennedy has vocally engaged in pregame and postgame prayers, sometimes joined by students.

The school superintendent says Kennedy “would very likely be found to violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause,” restricting prayer in public places.

Kennedy says he will resume praying on the field despite the letter.

To view the Bremerton High School District statement, click here: Bremerton Public Statement

His routine has become national news and members of Congress have defended Kennedy, adding fuel to the church versus state battle.

Forty-seven senators and representatives in the congressional prayer caucus sent a letter to the school’s principal, arguing Kennedy is not violating the Constitution.

“The mere act of a single individual kneeling alone after the conclusion of a game to quietly pray coerces no one,” the letter reads.

Read the letter sent by members of Congress here.