Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has voiced his support for a Christian high school football coach in Washington state who was fired for his post-game prayers.
Coach Joe Kennedy, a former Marine Corps gunnery sergeant, last year filed a lawsuit against Bremerton School District (BSD) after the school district terminated him for offering a prayer at the fifty-yard line after high school football games. The coach would reportedly kneel in quiet prayer for his students after being inspired to do so by the faith-based film, "Facing the Giants."
The coach told reporters back in October that his prayers, each about 30 seconds long, would focus on thanking God for a good game and for the opportunity to be involved in his student's lives, and praying for God's blessing on their future.
Kennedy is being represented by the Liberty Institute, a conservative law firm who agreed to take on his highly-publicized case in October 2015. In the lawsuit, the coach's attorneys claimed the post-game prayer session is not mandatory and is therefore protected free speech under the First Amendment: "I'm going to be bold in my faith, and fight the good fight," he said.
According to a press release made available to The Gospel Herald, Trump, speaking at the Retired American Warriors PAC gathering, was discussing religion and mentioned Kennedy's story.
"The other day, just to add to your list, I was watching one of the news programs and they had a, I think high school football coach, you know, they're going into battle," said Trump, before being alerted that Kennedy was in the audience.
"So you're not allowed to pray before a football game?" Trump asked the coach after asking him to stand, adding, "I thought it was horrible."
"They put me on suspension and then at the end of the year they gave me an adverse write-up of how well I did my job. I didn't change anything for eight years," Kennedy explained. "Always prayed after every game. And they just really slapped me on it. Said what a horrible person I was. Ended up just not renewing my contract, so ultimately firing me."
Trump then condemned Kennedy's termination as "absolutely outrageous. I think it's outrageous. I think it's very, very sad and outrageous."
Last year, Kennedy told Fox News contributor Todd Starnes that he'd fought for the Constitution as a Marine for 20 years, and would show his students that they must stand up for their beliefs.
"It largely has to do with me being a Marine and a veteran - fighting for the constitutional rights of all Americans," he said. "I still believe in America being home of the free and the brave. I haven't seen that lately. We constantly back down because someone could be offended. But that's not the American way. We talk about practicing tolerance and acceptance and diversity yet we are not living up to that. As an American, I can't sit by and let that happen."
Read more and view legal documents at CoachKennedyFacts.com