Bremerton to pay coach’s $1.7 million in attorney fees

“Thank God it is finally over!” declared Bremerton High School football coach Joe Kennedy on his Facebook page Feb. 24 after appearing to reach a settlement with the Bremerton School District.

The district confirmed an agreement was reached to settle an attorney fees claim for $1.7 million with Kennedy. The settlement is expected to be presented March 16 in a public meeting before the school board, which must approve the agreement before it is set in stone.

It’s another step toward Kennedy’s return to the field after his contract expired following the 2015 season in relation to a dispute over the coach’s post-game prayers at the 50-yard line, something the coach claimed to be a First Amendment right. The U.S. Supreme Court asserted that belief in June, ruling 6-3 in Kennedy’s favor, acknowledging the prayers to be a personal matter, not tying the district to the same beliefs. Foes said it violated church and state separation standards.

The case is still widely debated but was nationally recognized for its landmark ruling in favor of religious freedoms and forcing the change to district policies, including an addition to the personal conduct procedures and policies, adding “saying a brief, private prayer” as an example of acceptable personal conduct.