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Youth american football player on the field during a game.

High School Coach Chastised for Praying

“The U.S. Constitution ties the hands of the federal government and forbids it to interfere in any way whatsoever with the free expression of the Christian religion. In other words… leave Coach Joe Kennedy alone!” reported Fischer

Bremerton High School in Washington has grown in attention across the United States, as more and more people have realized what seems to be an ongoing since of retribution against Christian believers. Prayer of all things, is under attack. No longer is a person allowed to pray anywhere in the United States and be free from attack; wait, I think that only applies to certain types of prayer or certain religions, but the Christian religion is not one of those protected. As those who attend Bremerton High realized on Friday, October 15th, 2015.

It was a typical High School game against the Bremerton Knights and the Centralia Tigers. Although the Knights were not the winning team, that did not matter to the Knight’s Assistant Coach Joe Kennedy. He knelt and he prayed at the 50-yard line as he had many times before. Win or lose, he was there to praise God for that opportunity, and for every student there as well. For seven years as a Coach there, he has taken this knee on a field for this praise. This time though, he wasn’t alone.

In the hours before the game, conflict had been in the offices of others, and the final answer, Coach Kennedy could do what he wanted, but if he “prayed”- let me repeat that, this is important, “IF HE “PRAYED”, HE WOULD BE VIOLATING FEDERAL LAW, IF HE PRAYED ON DUTY. Now he hasn’t violated this law for seven years, why is he violating it now? As a matter of fact, why has it, people have been praying for years to watch over these football players and it hasn’t been anyone’s LAW broken? You know what has been broken?

  • Organs – Football players with spleen injuries on the field. They lacked rib protection, and they were hit, and bled out right there in front of them on the field.
  • Necks, Legs, etc. – many bones broken, and no matter how they reset them, they will prevent these players from being players in the pros, and productive people in their adult lives.
  • Hearts – Yes, I know I said organs, but these are the parents- parents like those of Junior Cam’ron Matthews from Alto High School in Texas, who died on Saturday after injuries he suffered during his team’s Friday night game.

You see, the prayer is more than for the game win. It’s for the game loss. It’s for the players that played that night, and have aches, pains and bruises. It’s praying there’s nothing else. It’s for the parents of the players traveling home. It’s for the players who may be injured, and not even know it yet; to intervene somehow and let them know in time to tell their parents, that they need help. Since 2005, 36 high school football players have died from on-field injuries. That number seems to be on the rise as Matthews’ passing pushes the number to six on-field deaths just since September. (Fletcher, 2015)

Therefore, for Joe Kennedy to walk on a field alone, and say a prayer. For other players, not his own; for other players from another team to walk on to midfield to briefly have an intercession of prayer with him, his thought was, “It’s a free country, this is America!” “Of course you can, welcome one, welcome all!” As Liberty Institute points out: “Coach Kennedy engages in private religious expression during non-instructional hours…He neither requests, encourages, nor discourages students from participating in his personal prayers, or coming to where he prays. His prayers neither proselytize nor denigrate the beliefs of others.”

Again, no one in seven years uttered a single word of complaint, but now- the Then the Freedom from Religion Foundation sent a threatening letter to the school district. Most times when a school district receives such, they usually, contact the administrator and the board, and they close it all down. They do not like friction. However, friction is sometimes required. You see friction is what protects the rights of all Americans, not just those who send threatening letters to school districts.

We have reached a time where letters are being sent every way to stop the infringement of one person’s rights against another’s. Coach Kennedy was not bothered with a letter, and obtained legal counsel from Liberty Institute, and after realized their demands were unconstitutional, illegal, and unethical, he resumed his post-game prayers last Friday night. He asked his own team to stay on the sidelines, but the players from the opposing team who cheered when the prayer was over, they have the right to do whatever they want.

Whether it is Constitution or the First Amendment- neither has the legal right to interfere in the prayers of Joe Kennedy, whether he is in his house, in the house of the Lord, or on the stadium’s 50-yard line. The problem is there is much left to interpretation and too many people will attempt to interpret the words of each one. As far as I can see, I have to agree with One News Now and Bryan Fischer:

“Thomas Jefferson spoke about a “wall of separation” and it was designed to prevent the very thing the school is doing.” “Contrary to popular misinterpretation, Jefferson’s “wall of separation” is a wall designed to protect the church from the intrusion of the state, not to insulate the state from the influence of the church.” “It is a wall designed to protect religious liberty, not snuff it out.” “Jefferson’s “wall of separation” is a wall of protection built around Coach Kennedy as he kneels at midfield, and others as they kneel at midfield, and you and I if we knelt at midfield; and I for one, want that protection.” (Fischer, 2015

What do we want our kids to know about God? What do we want our kids to know about believing in something bigger than ourselves? I have always heard people complain about things taught at school. This shouldn’t be taught at school, and that taught at school; my first thought is, well no wonder? You should be upset, since those are the things you should be teaching at home. And that is where the conflict brews. Kids are picking up on the things they want to know more about. Sometimes its history they want to know more about; sometimes it is math; sometimes its Science; sometimes it bleeds over into religion and science and things get really separated and the teacher has to tip-toe around those. Then again, sometimes it is as simple as the class pet has babies, and sometimes it is not so simple, when the class pet dies.

We expect a lot from our teachers. We expect them to take care of the teaching, the school work, the lunch breaks, the physical education, the school ground fights, the school ground drama, the arguments, the make-ups, the make outs, the first times for “everything” happens at school and the parents hear about them at the end of the day. We expect our coaches to take care of the sports. We expect to meet our friends on Friday nights to watch our kids play or cheer, or play in the band. We put our kids in the hands of so many humans, but shouldn’t your kids be in the hands of someone better equipped to handle of these situations? Well, some teachers know this, and some coaches know this, and even some assistant coaches. If some, non-religious group who doesn’t want their children involved in it? Then allow them to come to school. Allow them to be in the activities. And when the coaches and players take a knee, when their kids ask, “What’s that all about, just say, “Come on home kids, that’s not for us.”

Our Two Cents
One year I was teaching a group of fifth grade students, and we all loved each other equally. However, one day, the lunch groups were swapped. I took my students every day, so I didn’t think too much about this one-day swap. However, the other group started complaining, not because they didn’t want to go with me, but because they were not getting their lunch prayer. I said, “Lunch prayer?” “You get a lunch prayer in Ms. Ellerbe’s room?” They were all excited, “Yes.” “She always says a prayer for us,” one kid exclaimed in great glee. I thought, now I know the principal told me when I first came here, the administrator did not allow that, and that would get you removed from post, quickly. So, my thought was- hurry! I lined them up as quickly as possible and we hurried next door, just in time to stand in back for the prayer. I didn’t even go to lunch that day, as I felt ashamed- bullied into keeping my job, because of my faith. I should have stood up for my faith. My partner teacher came in and we talked. She told me if the principal would have told her that, she would not be having prayer either. However, she had seniority and could do what she wanted. When you get it, you can too. I just laughed, but every day at lunch, I remembered~

I suppose the principal wanted to groom the new people. Maybe Bremerton has groomed the people whose come in the last seven years? I left at the end of the year. I found a place where when I asked, “Can I say a prayer with my students? Her answer was, “Well, why wouldn’t you?” This I made my home until I left teaching at the Elementary Level, and moved to a local University.

I had heard for years how hard it was to steer from teaching children about God. I remembered how Monica Parker related how God’s gender was an issue, kids were definitely convinced, God was a Superhero. Her son was convinced God was a doctor who when doing surgery would open people up, and see God inside, and that is actually how the phrase, “OMG” came about. It is difficult to explain God and how he helps others. I can remember learning about God, and the most distant memory as a child learning of God and HIS greatness, was Paul and Silas in Acts 16~

Kids have very active imaginations, and their minds see things very differently than ours. They will always wonder. When teachers are asked, “Do you believe in God?” Teachers should be able to say, “Yes, I do, though everyone believes spiritually in a different way.” This is not an educational question though, and it is a question for your parents or caretaker. If you would like to bring your child and talk, then you should. Have this talk with your child. Again, this goes back to, children want to talk about what they find the most intriguing. If they see a Bible sticking up from the teacher’s purse because she has Bible study after class? That’s not something for either to be embarrassed about. It’s something that should be addressed, somehow~

If the child does not have it addressed at home, he or she will look for an answer, by the person who they think “has” to answer their question. Your right, a teacher should not be that person, it should be you, so do it, but don’t fault a teacher for praying at lunch or a coach for praying at a game; after all, it is for the well-being of your child, and your child is not being asked to pray, just to stand, and be silent.
Our Prayer
I so, wish I could take credit for this prayer, but I can’t. I remember this prayer, having heard it the same way, I am repeating it for you today. When one of our rights are in jeopardy, in any fashion- I remember to repeat this prayer, and I will share it with you today, as I feel it is such a reminder of where we began…

Today we confront a world that, in so many ways, has lost a sense of what true freedom is. In place of the search for true freedom — living in truth and integrity — many have substituted license and slavery to sin. In sin, we place ourselves in bondage, and by doing so, we endanger our basic freedoms as a society as well.

There is an answer. And He’s been there all along. And He’s waiting for us now. Waiting

for us to turn to Him.

And so, we who — by His grace — know God Our Creator, turn to Him in prayer for this great country, and for freedom for all people throughout the world. We pray for true freedom, the freedom of living in His truth, the only truth there is.

 Heavenly Father, pour forth Your blessings on Your people. You have made us in Your own image and likeness. What a great gift You have given us. Call us back to You. Even when we turn from You, call us back.

Even when we don’t understand the greatness to which we are called, call us back.

When we treat ourselves as objects, and not as Your own children, call us back.

When we turn toward sin instead of You, call us back.

When we hurt ourselves and consider it freedom, call us back.

When we hurt others and call it choice, call us back.

When we long for love and seek it everywhere but in You, call us back.

Oh Heavenly Father, our hearts are far from You. But our hearts yearn for You. Forgive

our sins, and bring us to repentance and Your peace.

God bless America, and God bless all peoples of the world.




About Brenda Stapleton

Brenda Stapleton is a professional writer and social media enthusiast. She is the founding columnist of from the park bench, and continues blogging under the same headline today. She is a content writer, technical writer, communication and procedural consultant, who considers it both an honor, and a privilege to have worked with such a diverse group of subject matter experts throughout the years. She feels it is through collaboration and communication with professionals in other programs, where meaningful partnerships are formed and challenging projects are culminated which produce awareness, integration, and increased success in finding solutions to mutual problems.

Brenda is a former primary and secondary educator, with a Louisiana teaching certification from (ULM) University of Louisiana at Monroe. She is a former nurse tech and registered nurse working under the ULM-RN program. She certified through the (AFA) American Fitness Association as a personal trainer, and is a certified law enforcement professional under (POST) Police Officer Standards Training in the State of Louisiana. She is well-versed in the Arts and Sciences, holding a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in Arts in the discipline of Criminal Justice with minors in Sociology and Psychology. She has credited graduate work in English and Integrated Learning through Technology and Communication, carried over from her Ph.D. work in Integrating Technology, Learning and Psychology from Grand Canyon University.

and More…personally
Brenda grew up in Columbia, Louisiana in the same house, where her parents still live, today. She began life literally, stumbling every day. She was fitted for her first set of braces on her legs, as a toddler. She would wear braces on her legs, until the age of four, and orthopedic shoes until the age of six. Thinking the past was behind her, she took the world in leaps and bounds, until at the peak of her career, she faced yet another set-back, only this one, left her with a neurological injury that was irreversible. Since then, she has strived continuously for a career, where her passion for creativity would be fueled by the fervor of chasing a sense of sobriety that did not leave her doubtful of a future. Armed with a sense of humor, a purpose in life, and a heart full of dreams, she took the road less traveled, compliments of Robert Frost, and she has learned many things along the way.
She has learned adaptability is her best characteristic, and humility is her worst. She has learned the day is scarier than the night, for in the day you will see the harm that befalls you. She has learned unconditional love is never stronger than in the very young, and as it is in the very old. She has learned no matter what emotion a person is experiencing, a cuddly puppy can make you re-evaluate it all. She has learned the only certainty in life, is death- be ready. She has learned the most experienced emotions are forgiveness, grief and hope, and she has learned that patience is the most taught virtue.
In her free time, Brenda can be found lost in the elements of nature. She enjoys cycling, golfing, swimming, and practicing yoga. Her favorite places to be in this world are at the edge of the sand, with the ocean waves kissing her toes, or chasing her footprints away; or riding a bike through the park under the trees full of multi-colored leaves in the fall, with the wind blowing gently at her face, and is deeply overwhelmed by nature. It’s the fleeting moments when she is caught in a rainstorm, or snowflakes begin to fall, and melt as soon as they touch the warmth of skin, or when watching over a cocoon, as it changes into a butterfly, or a rose bud into bloom, when she feels human, small and meek.
Brenda is a published author of articles and blogs. She is currently writing her first book, but acknowledges her two greatest accomplishments, as the two who call her momma. She is inspired by watching her daughters become individuals, face their giants, and grow in life, while each follows her dreams and searches for a place and a purpose to aspire and grow. With several years behind her, and her children growing into adults, Brenda has taken the time to focus on her purpose. In doing so, she has unpacked the dreams she had placed away for safe keeping, and with a bit of uncertainty of what lies ahead, she sets out on yet another road less traveled, and this time, she says she takes a pen and paper along the way.

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