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From Atheist to Christian: Coach Kennedy Pens Book as 'an Unlikely Champion of Religious Freedom'


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The former Washington state football coach who won his Supreme Court case allowing him to pray openly on the field is releasing a new book about the courage it took to boldly stand for religious freedom amid persecution.

In his new book, Average Joe: The Coach Joe Kennedy Story, Joe Kennedy shares how his commitment to God and prayer landed him at the center of one of the largest religious freedom cases in U.S. history. 

"If you could take a schmuck like me and change the path of the nation as far as religious freedom and the First Amendment goes, imagine what [God] could do with some other people," he told The Daily Signal

The book details some of the behind-the-scenes experiences Kennedy had over the eight-year battle that ultimately led the Supreme Court to rule that Bremerton School District violated his constitutional rights when they fired him for praying silently at the 50-yard-line on the football field.

"Kennedy prayed during a period when school employees were free to speak with a friend, call for a reservation at a restaurant, check email, or attend to other personal matters. He offered his prayers quietly while his students were otherwise occupied. Still, the Bremerton School District disciplined him anyway," wrote Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch for the majority.

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"Both the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect expressions like Mr. Kennedy's ... The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike," the ruling stated.

As CBN News reported, Kennedy was then allowed to return to the field as Bremerton High School's assistant football coach on Friday, September 1st after being reinstated by the school district, but he then resigned after kneeling one last time to pray at midfield. 

Kennedy told CBN's Faith Nation that he felt like an "outsider" on "enemy grounds."

"As much as they have accepted me, still, I feel like I'm kind of the outsider and still (felt) like I'm on enemy grounds and I don't like that feeling," he said. 

Kennedy added, "I knew I was going to be in hostile territory. They were forced to take me back and I thought it would be the perfect time to resign on my own terms."

As CBN News reported, Kennedy cited multiple reasons for his resignation including taking care of an ailing family member out of state.

"That played a large part in our decision making, but nobody is going to be happy with the decision I make," he explained. "But I wanted to retire on my own terms instead of somebody else's." 

He shared that he ultimately wanted to pursue ministry, stating, "I believe I can best continue to advocate for constitutional freedom and religious liberty by working from outside the school system so that is what I will do. I will continue to work to help people understand and embrace the historic ruling at the heart of our case. As a result of our case, we all have more freedom, not less. That should be celebrated and not disrespected."

Kennedy's new book delves into how God used his life experiences – like growing up an atheist and serving in the Marines – to make him one of the most unlikely champions of religious freedom. 

"I wanted to be able to tell my whole story," the coach told the Christian Post. "So many people will end up just seeing a headline or a social media post, and when I started talking to people, I had to tell the same story over and over again. And I just thought, 'Man, this really needs to be written down.'"

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About The Author


Talia Wise has served as a multi-media producer for, CBN Newswatch, The Prayer Link, and CBN News social media outlets. Prior to joining CBN News she worked for Fox Sports Florida producing and reporting. Talia earned a master’s degree in journalism from Regent University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia.