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Coach's prayer battle over more than just a bowed head

There was prayer at the opening of the Constitutional Convention and church services inside the halls of Congress. U.S. money has referred to God for centuries, and it’s been in the official motto of the nation for decades.

Francis Scott Key cited the nation’s trust in God in the national anthem in 1814. Twice the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled to keep “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

All are public displays of the nation’s Judeo-Christian foundations.

So what has gone so wrong that a football coach taking a knee and thanking God for the safety of the players – on both teams – on a football field after a game can cause an uproar?

The nation’s changed, and not for the better, according to a lawyer currently representing the football coach. And the problem needs to be fixed, or there will be unwanted consequences, he said.

The dispute now is over the employment future of Joe Kennedy, who was assistant football coach at Bremerton High in Washington state until the school recently suspended him.

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His long-time practice has been to take a knee on the 50-yard line after a game and thank God.

On Wednesday, the Bremerton School District put Kennedy on paid administrative leave “pending further district review of your conduct.”

“You may not participate, in any capacity, in BHS football program activities,” said Supt. Aaron Leavell in a letter to the coach.

Kennedy has been working with Liberty Institute to protect his religious rights.

Judge Andrew P. Napolitano’s “The Freedom Answer Book” provides a clear vision of what your rights are and how you can protect them. Get your copy of this helpful guide to the Constitution today!

Jeremy Dys, a lawyer with Liberty, told WND on Friday that the case is huge.

The underlying precedent that the school is trying to impose is that government, in this case the school district, is a god and nothing is higher, he said.

That means a Christian cannot do anything that would demonstrate religious belief.

By the district’s standard, he said, if a coach were praying in a private room and he were approached by a student, he would have to “run away screaming, ‘Get away! Get away!’

“That’s not freedom of religion.”

Further, he said, that standard would forbid other indications of faith.

“Jews cannot wear yarmulkes, Muslims cannot wear hijabs, Catholic cannot wear a rosary. … If a religious individual walks down a hallway and a student sneezes, that teacher cannot say, ‘God bless you,'” he said.

“That’s why this is such an important case,” he explained.

This week, the case took another turn when, the Seattle Times reported, half-a-dozen members of the Satanic Temple of Seattle donned hooded black robes and masks and appeared at the Bremerton football game. They wanted to perform an invocation but did not.

Dys said it appears the case may have to be resolved in the courts.

He said it’s unconstitutional for the district to ban any expression of faith, and the coach had simply asked for an accommodation. He wanted it announced that his after-game prayer was not sponsored by the school.

The district refused, Dys said.

Dys said school districts aren’t the only ones with the strained message these days. Dozens of municipalities where the national motto is included on police cruisers are facing complaints now from atheists.

It’s simple hostility on the part of those who oppose Christianity, he said. And in the school district’s case, the government is the culprit, which is unconstitutional

WND reported months ago on what appears to be a coordinated effort by the federal government to change the Constitution’s concept of “freedom of religion” into “freedom of worship.”

That was when a big list of prominent faith leaders from across America asked Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to fix a problematic document for newcomers to the United States that teaches about the country’s “freedom of worship.”

“We … write to you with deep concern about the wording of the answer to question 51 on the study materials for the civics portion of the naturalization exam. The question asks students to provide two rights guaranteed to everyone living in the United States, and listed among the possible correct answers is ‘Freedom of Worship.’ We write to you requesting that this answer be immediately corrected to the constitutionally accurate answer – ‘Freedom of Religion,'” the letter said.

“We believe that the wording change we are requesting represents much more than a ‘distinction without a difference.’ Many totalitarian forms of government have allowed for the Freedom of Worship in their governmental documents but in practice severely restricted individual religious freedoms. The phrase Freedom of Worship, as it has been used throughout history, articulates an intentionally limited freedom that restricts a citizen’s rights to the four walls of a government-sanctioned house of worship and only for specific times and events.”

The letter was assembled by the Weyrich Lunch participants. The group is named after the late chairman of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation Paul Weyrich.

Get “The Corruption Chronicles,” by Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch, which describes “Obama’s Big Secrecy.”

The inaccurate statement on the government documentation, the signers said, “certainly is not how our founders envisioned the intrinsic rights of all Americans secured by the Constitution. The use of the phrase Freedom of Religion accurately represents the broad freedom guaranteed to every citizen – religious and non-religious alike – to live life in the public square according to the dictates of conscience or religious sensibility.

“Freedom of Religion is wholly different from Freedom of Worship, in that the former is broad and robust and the latter is narrow and limited.”

They quoted Michelle Obama in her address at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., that followed the murder of nine members of a prayer meeting group there.

“Our faith journey isn’t just about showing up on Sunday for a good sermon and good music and a good meal. It’s about what we do Monday through Saturday as well. … Jesus didn’t limit his ministry to the four walls of the church, He was out there fighting injustice and speaking truth to power every single day,” she said.

“We agree with our first lady and trust that you see the importance of properly articulating this important distinction. We request that the change be made as soon as possible wherever it appears in the naturalization process but especially in the study materials, so that those preparing for and taking the naturalization exam can have an accurate understanding of the foundational freedoms so beautifully expressed in our Constitution,” the signers said.

WND reported early in President Obama’s tenure in the White House, Catholic Online and other media outlets reported what appeared to be a deliberate attack on the Constitution’s “freedom of religion” protections.

The report noted a crucial change in Obama’s language between his June 2009 speech in Cairo, Egypt, where he spoke of a Muslim America and its “freedom of religion,” and the November 2009 memorial for the Fort Hood soldiers gunned down by a radical Muslim, where he termed it “freedom of worship.”

From that point on, “freedom of worship” has become the term of choice, the report said.

The use of the term in the naturalization process recently got attention in Congress.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., charged during a hearing that included Johnson that the government is “misrepresenting” the First Amendment.

See his comments:

Sarah Torre of the Heritage Foundation said the difference is significant. In practice across America, the “freedom to worship” seldom has been challenged or even questioned. But “freedom of religion” is under direct fire.

See WND’s Big List of Christian Coercion about this very topic.