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'Hostile Territory': Praying Coach Was Ostracized When He Returned but Still Sees 'God's Hand'

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The former Washington state football coach who won his case before the Supreme Court allowing him to pray openly on the field, is now sharing why he resigned just five days after his return.

Coach Joe Kennedy took the field as Bremerton High School's assistant football coach on Friday, September 1st, but he admits it wasn't the same.  

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

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"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, but I wanted to rehire on my own terms instead of somebody else's," he explained. 

Kennedy had returned to the sidelines after fighting an eight-year legal battle to publicly pray after football games. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled he could exercise his First Amendment right to pray. Bremerton was then forced to reinstate Kennedy earlier this year. 

Now Kennedy's attorney Hiram Sasser has told Fox News that Kennedy was actually being gracious in his remarks after his resigned. Sasser says they are investigating alleged retaliation from the school district.
"Well, coach is a Marine — so he's too proud, he has too much honor to tell you everything the school district was doing," said Sasser on the "Fox & Friends" segment. "We're currently investigating all the retaliation that was going on."

Sasser told the outlet he was barred from certain meetings and events and wasn't given game assignments. 

"They banned him from the team meal, they didn't invite him to the coaches' dinner with the opposing team's coaches, they wouldn't give him a locker, his key fob wouldn't work, they wouldn't let him get into certain meetings," he explained. "They were really trying to ostracize and try to keep him at a great distance." 

Kennedy was also allegedly told to stay away from the head coach and players. 

Sasser added, "They were treating him like a pariah...they were not complying with the court order."

"It was rough," concurred Kennedy during the interview. "I knew it wasn't going to be a picnic." 

Shortly after the game ended, Kennedy walked out along the 50 yard-line at Bremerton Memorial Stadium, took a knee, and bowed his head in prayer. 

He told CBN's Faith Nation that despite the eight-year legal battle and the hostility he faced when he returned to Bremerton, he could see God's hand in all of it. 

"God knew what He was doing for such a time as this. He made it to where we got God back into the public schools (and) back into the public square," he explained. "And now we have more religious freedom than we probably hadn't had in probably the past 50 years...You can't tell me that God isn't part of that."

Kennedy said he will likely be involved in ministry. 

He told CBN News in a statement last week, "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."

He later added, "We will see where God puts us and I ask that everybody keep praying for us and our family."

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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.