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Bremerton School Board approves settlement with football coach fired for praying on field

The nearly $2 million settlement will cover football coach Joe Kennedy's attorney fees.

BREMERTON, Wash. — Bremerton School Board members voted Thursday to accept a settlement agreement with Joseph Kennedy, a football coach who was fired in 2015 for praying with players on the field after the district told him to stop. 

Kennedy sued the school district over the firing. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled in his favor last year that his prayers were protected under the First Amendment. 

The case forced the justices to wrestle with how to balance the religious and free speech rights of teachers and coaches with the rights of students not to feel pressured into participating in religious practices.  

The school district will pay a settlement of nearly $2 million to cover Kennedy's attorney fees. 

Some residents who attended Thursday's school board meeting expressed concern over where the money will come from and how the settlement will impact the district's operations.

RELATED: Former Bremerton football coach reinstated after Supreme Court ruling

The school board has not addressed how the settlement will be paid. 

As part of the ruling, Kennedy has been rehired by the school district and will return as an assistant football coach for Bremerton High School for the 2023-2024 school year. 

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Kennedy's favor that his prayers were protected under the First Amendment.

“The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike,” wrote Justice Neil Gorsuch for the majority.

Kennedy said in an interview with KING 5 after the ruling that he would be on the "first flight back" to return to his position once he had the chance.

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