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Washington state lawmaker proposes bill that will allow coaches to participate in prayer

(YouTube/First Liberty)Joe Kennedy and the Bremerton High School football team in a screen capture of a video in which they pray after a homecoming game.

A legislation allowing coaches and other school staff to take part in post-game prayers was introduced by a Washington state lawmaker earlier this week.

Rep. Jesse Young introduced H.B. 1602 on Wednesday in response to an incident at a school district where Joe Kennedy, former assistant football coach at Bremerton High School, was prohibited from participating in post-game prayers in the football field.

Kennedy, who had participated and led prayers since 2008, was placed on paid administrative leave in October 2015 when he prayed after a homecoming game despite an order to cease the practice, Christian News reported.

The district had previously praised the coach for his contributions to the football program, but it also raised concerns that it could be held liable for violating the constitutional rights of students because of the prayers.

Kennedy sued the district, asking to be rehired and be allowed to pray on the field after the games.

"It's a really important issue for me because this is a covenant I made with God—before I even started coaching, that if I became a coach, what I would do is give You the glory on the 50 after every game," Kennedy said.

He said that he never asked students to pray with him, but some wanted to, including those from the opposing team.

The legislation would make it legal for coaches and other school administration to take part in prayers on school grounds after the school day has ended. If it becomes law, districts that prohibit such prayers could be fined $5,000 to $20,000, according to CBN News.

Young said he believes the bill is constitutional because it involves an activity that is conducted after a school event is over.

"No. 1, [the legislation] defines when a game ends and it gives school districts immunity for coaches to exercise their First Amendment rights after the game has ended. So from that standpoint, those are well within the constitutional boundaries," he said.

He also noted that it does not endorse any particular religion, and it does not require anyone to participate.

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