Steve Largent defends Bremerton coach who prayed with players

SEATTLE -- Seahawks legend and NFL Hall of Famer Steve Largent is throwing his support behind a local high school football coach who was placed on leave for praying at the 50-yard-line after games.

Two high-profile high school football coaches are also stepping forward in defense of former Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy.

Kennedy was placed on leave in October 2015. He filed a lawsuit this past August claiming the district discriminated against him for religious reasons and violated his First Amendment rights.

Largent filed an amicus brief along with former Dallas Cowboy Chad Hennings Monday. The brief states Largent’s father left his family when Largent was six years old, so Largent credits his on- and off-field success to the influence of his football coaches.

“Thus, while Mr. Largent does not have an interest in the particular dispute between these litigants, he is deeply concerned about judicial decisions affecting the scope of free speech and religious expression for coaches in particular,” the brief states.

Largent and Hennings are asking the court to rule for Kennedy so he can return to coaching.

Another brief was filed by Garfield High School head coach Joe Thomas and assistant coach Kellen Alley. They joined their team in kneeling during the national anthem in September -- a movement started by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to bring awareness to racial and social injustice.

"... like Coach Kennedy, Coaches Alley and Thomas have also exercised their First Amendment rights by engaging in expressive conduct while “on the job” as football coaches. It is important to Coaches Alley and Thomas that this Court continue to affirm that public employees—including football coaches—receive First Amendment protection for their private expression," the brief states.

“If the Constitution protects the right of a football coach to kneel to protest injustice, it certainly protects the right of a football coach to kneel in prayer,” reads a statement from Mike Berry, Senior Counsel at First Liberty Institute, which is defending Kennedy.

Copyright 2016 KING


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