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Washington school threatens to fire football coach if he prays silently to himself in public or even kneels to honor God

Religious persecution

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(NaturalNews) In football jargon, there is the term "hail Mary." Generally it is a term used to describe a last-second, deep pass by a quarterback to one or more of his receivers who race to the end zone and hope against hope they can come down with a touchdown catch amid a sea of defenders and win the game.

It happens – but it's rare. When it does, some teams have even referred to such plays as miracles.

If you're picking up on the Biblical references, good for you, because this story is full of both – football and Biblical references.

As reported by Fox News and others in recent days, a Washington State high school football coach was suspended by the school district's administrators because he dared to exercise his First Amendment religious freedom by praying where some people could see him (as in he was doing it publicly).

Mind you, the coach, Joe Kennedy, from Bremerton High School, wasn't requiring his players to join him. In fact, he wasn't asking anyone to join him. This was all him, acting alone and of his own (constitutional) accord.

Or so he thought. School officials – egged on by a minority of parents who somehow feel they have a First Amendment right to complain but feel put upon when someone else deigns to exercise a different right outlined in the same amendment – decided they needed to punish him for his heinous "act."

Prayer is a no-no, but minors smoking dope is okay?

"Any further violations will be grounds for discipline, up to and including discharge from District employment," Superintendent Aaron Leavell wrote in an Oct. 23 letter.

"I was really shocked," Coach Joe told Fox News' Todd Starnes. "I went out of my way to accommodate them. All I wanted to do was pray -- and now I can't even pray at all."

For a number of years, this former Marine combat vet would walk by himself along the 50-yard-line and offer a thanksgiving prayer and blessing after games. He says he drew inspiration for his post-game prayers from Facing the Giants, a popular faith-based film.

Over the years, Starnes notes, the players and coaches from both teams often joined him, but again, on their own choice. He never forced anyone or even asked anyone to join in.

But on Sept. 27, Leavell – spurred on by who knows who – fired off a letter to the coach demanding he cease and desist... engaging in his First Amendment rights.

"Your talks with students may not include religious expression, including prayer," he wrote. "They must remain entirely secular in nature, so as to avoid alienation of any team member."

In a more recent letter, Leavell said the district would make sure Coach Joe had a place to pray – but it had to be in private and "not observable to students or the public."

"For example, a private location within the school building, athletic facility or press box could be made available to you for brief religious exercise before and after games," Superintendent Leavell wrote.

So, just to note, the coach cannot bow his head, take a knee or look to be doing anything that might be construed, by someone, to be "religious" in nature (what if Coach Joe was a Muslim?).

"They've already violated his civil rights"

"While on duty for the District as an assistant coach, you may not engage in demonstrative religious activity, readily observable to (of not intended to be observed by) students and the attending public," the superintendent said.

That means he can't even bow his head behind football field bleachers, where kids from the school are lighting joints and smoking dope (which remains against federal law, by the way).

Coach Joe isn't taking this one lightly. The Liberty Institute, the country's largest law firm specializing in religious persecution cases, has begun prepping for legal action against the school district, accusing them of religious discrimination.

"They've already punished Coach Joe by denying his request for religious accommodation," attorney Hiram Sasser said. "Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, they've already violated his civil rights."






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