Prayer in football in jeopardy?

Patrick Brown, Staff Writer

A Washington state high school football coach's first amendment rights were threatened after the school district told him he should not pray with his team at the 50-yard line after the games.  

Joe Kennedy, assistant coach of Bremerton High School's football team, makes it a habit to pray after every game whether or not players join in or not. Kennedy said he is just using his first amendment rights and thanking God for the team.

"I spent 20 years in the Marine Corps, and it's been about protecting the freedom of other people," Kennedy said. "It's about freedom, and people can believe whatever they want. I'm just exercising my right. The game is over, and I just thank God for every one of these young men that are out here."

In an investigation of the situation, a district official said coach to player conversations,"must remain entirely secular in nature, so as to avoid alienation of any team member and, importantly, violate the law and our board policy."

“Our coaching staff can continue to provide motivational, inspirational talks to students before, during and after games and other team activity, focusing on appropriate themes such as unity, teamwork, responsibility, safety and endeavor. However, talks with students may not include religious expression, including prayer. They must remain entirely secular in nature, so as to avoid alienation of any team member and, importantly, violate the law and our board policy,” the official added. 

Kyle Roberts, intermural director of North Greenville University, said, "It should be up to the players if they want to get together and pray after the game."

Organizations like the NFL allow players to pray on the field after games, but for high school students and coaches alike the choice is being scrutinized.

"The NFL gives their players the opportunity to pray at the end of each game, but I think when you come down to the high school level, it still should be a personal decision," said Roberts.

The question of whether prayer will remain an integral part of this high school sports team, or any other organization for that matter, is a crucial one, but prayer will not be diminished completely as long as personal choice and first amendment rights are valued by those organizations.