Tony Perkins / Oct. 17, 2015

Coach's Challenge: Pray Under Pressure

When the Bremerton High School football team takes the field tonight, the loudest cheers will be for the coach. After a public spat over game day prayer, Joe Kennedy has picked up plenty of fans — and not just from conservatives. The former Marine has become a statewide hero after refusing to back down from his seven-year tradition of thanking God at every game. And while he never asked his players to join him, they wanted to. The midfield kneel became part of the team's identity until this year, when Coach Kennedy was told to stop praying or *start* finding a new job.

Editor’s note: This piece was written Friday, Oct. 16.

When the Bremerton High School football team takes the field tonight, the loudest cheers will be for the coach. After a public spat over game day prayer, Joe Kennedy has picked up plenty of fans — and not just from conservatives. The former Marine has become a statewide hero after refusing to back down from his seven-year tradition of thanking God at every game. And while he never asked his players to join him, they wanted to. The midfield kneel became part of the team’s identity until this year, when Coach Kennedy was told to stop praying or start finding a new job.

The former combat veteran refused. “As long as the kids understand that he’s doing that in his individual and private capacity, which is what he’s doing, it’s perfectly constitutional and not only that, it’s a violation of the constitution to tell him he’s not allowed to pray,” said his Liberty Institute attorney, Hiram Sasser.

Now, days into the national spotlight, the school’s bullying is backfiring. Across party and religious lines, Americans are lining up in support of the Coach. Even “Good Morning America” took time out of their normal talk to highlight the story and the families coming to Kennedy’s defense. “I don’t understand how this could be wrong,” Kennedy told them. “I’m not establishing religion. I’m not preachy with anybody. It’s that mutual respect. They know where I stand but I’ve never asked them about theirs because it has no bearing on what we do on the football field.”

Showing the same courage he did as a Marine, Kennedy has said he plans to take his stand tonight by taking a knee. “[We’re going out to the 50 yard line], and I’m going to thank the Lord for the young men that participated and blessing me with this group of guys.”

And he’ll have plenty of broad backing when he does. In a powerful op-ed, one local nonbeliever fired back at this growing hostility toward religious expression. “I don’t go to church,” Matt Culkins wrote. “I don’t quote Scripture. And while I ask people for forgiveness constantly, it’s been a while since I’ve asked a higher power… So Wednesday, when I talked to a high-school football coach who, despite receiving a letter from his school district demanding that he stop, said he will continue his postgame tradition of praying at the 50-yard line, all I could think was this: I hope my kid has a coach like that one day.”

Like most people, Culkins points out that the tradition was beloved among players and fans. “[Coach Kennedy] has never asked anyone else to partake, and he hasn’t gone out of his way to attract attention. But after a while, players took notice and decided they wanted to join. Kennedy welcomed the company… For several seasons, this scene went unobstructed. Actually, that’s the wrong word,” Culkins went on. “This scene was embraced. The midfield meeting allowed players from both teams to enjoy a moment of community after four quarters of carnage. It wasn’t just the Christian kids, either. Bremerton team captain Ethan Hacker is an agnostic who has yet to miss the postgame prayer. To him, those few minutes aren’t about a Father in Heaven — they’re about his brothers on earth.” Even to people like Culkins, it’s obvious that (as with so many religious liberty cases) this coach isn’t trying to force anyone to do anything — he just wants to exercise his own faith. “I tell my kids to be bold in their beliefs,” Kennedy said. “I want to set an example to stand up for what you believe in, even if it isn’t popular.” As Culkins so perfectly put it, “Like I said, I’m not really one to look to the heavens. But Joe Kennedy? It’s hard not to look up to him.” Join us as we support Coach Kennedy and his constitutional rights!

Shoot First, Ash Questions Later

If the military wanted to keep its move toward women in combat a secret, it should have tried harder. The news that Defense officials were opening up dangerous new positions to females has been swirling around the Pentagon for months. And less than 10 weeks on making the policy a reality, it seems a little late to try and put the lid on the development. Yet that’s exactly what Defense Secretary Ash Carter is doing with a memo leaked to the press this week.

During what has become a very contentious debate, the president’s third DOD chief is ordering a blackout on the discussion in the press. “Until I make the final decision,” Carter warned, “further public discussion of the [Women in Service Review] process is neither helpful [nor] prudent. External communication by any official within the Department of Defense regarding specific WISR deliberation and deliberative documents must be confidential and approved in advance with the Deputy Secretary of Defense.”

It’s an interesting move, but not a surprising one considering how much pushback the Army must be getting for its suggestion that women may have to register for the draft. Branch Secretary John McHugh hinted as much during an interview this week, explaining that “pure equality” would demand it. As FRC’s Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin pointed out earlier this week, that’s the unfortunate byproduct of opening infantry and other front line positions to women. When the DOD removes the barriers to women serving in all positions, it removes most barriers to drafting them as well. After all, the whole purpose of selective service is replenishing the combat divisions that have had to wage war for prolonged periods of time.

That’s a frightening proposition, as most fathers, husbands, and children will tell you. No wonder Ash Carter is keeping the issue hush-hush. Once Americans realize the gravity of the situation, they may finally wake up to where this feminist agenda leads. What started out as an opportunity for equality will suddenly become an obligation. “Level playing field?” It’s not a playing field — it’s a battlefield! One that women should be protected from — not ordered to.

Rand Casts a Paul on Radical Bathroom Bill

It’s a different kind of blitz than the owner of the Houston Texans is used to — but Bob McNair isn’t budging. A conservative fixture in the NFL, Bob McNair expected some pushback after coming out in opposition to the city’s bathroom bill. Once news of his $10,000 contribution to the repeal effort made headlines, the “tolerant” side went into attack mode. Yesterday, the blowback was so fierce that McNair released a statement, explaining that Houston is known for its “diversity,” which should apply to everyone — including people with natural views of marriage and sexuality.

“We are a city that works to ensure that everyone is treated respectfully and fairly. I strongly believe that everyone who lives or works in or visits Houston should be treated with the utmost dignity and respect. Because of the way the HERO ordinance is written, it has begun to separate rather than unite our community. This problem can be solved by defeating the current bill in November, thoughtfully rewriting it and then resubmitting it to the voters.”

According to pollsters, it’s anyone’s guess who has the edge in the battle on the November ballot. Although SurveyUSA released numbers showing 45% support, 36% opposition, and 20% undecided, most experts aren’t fooled by the gap. Mark Jones, the political science chair at Rice University, cautioned ordinance supporters against celebrating just yet. “You really do have to consider that a majority, or perhaps three quarters of people who say they’re undecided or say they have no response, will end up if they turn out, will end up voting no.”

Meanwhile, Bob McNair isn’t the only one in the Left’s doghouse after his stand. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who took an outspoken position against gender confusion bills, is being blasted by the media and a handful of college kids. According to a Des Moines newspaper, some students left the speech where Paul urged people to leave their sex lives at home and started peeling Rand Paul 2016 bumper stickers off their cars.

“I thought, ‘What century does this guy live in?’” said one LGBT activist. “He exhibited such bias, real homophobia and transphobia,” she said. All Senator Paul suggested is leaving employers alone to make the decisions that are best for their businesses — not what’s best for the gender confused. And somehow conservatives are the intolerant ones? It’s ironic. Liberals want to be free to visit the public restroom of their choice, but they don’t want to extend that freedom to people to express their choice in public policy!


This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.

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