The Latest: Praying coach, Satanists attend game

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Posted: Oct 30, 2015 2:02 AM
The Latest: Praying coach, Satanists attend game

BREMERTON, Wash. (AP) — The latest on a Washington state high school football coach put on paid leave over on-field prayers (all times local):

10:30 p.m.

A Washington state high school coach on paid leave because he refused to stop praying on the field prayed in front of the bleachers after attending the Bremerton High School football game.

Coach Joe Kennedy hugged players before the Thursday game and watched from the stands, talking with media at halftime and kneeling down to pray with a group of people who shouted "Amen" when he finished.

He told media it hurt his heart that the situation had gotten to the point where "his guys are in the locker room and I've got to be out here."

9 p.m.

Members of the Seattle chapter of the Satanic Temple clad in black robes have arrived at the high school football game in Bremerton, according to Tweets with photos from a Seattle Times reporter. The group had asked to perform an on-field invocation Thursday night to protest prayers by Bremerton High assistant coach Joe Kennedy.

7 p.m.

Assistant high school football coach Joe Kennedy is watching the team's Thursday night game from the sidelines in Bremerton. Two media outlets tweeted photos of Kennedy in the bleachers and said several players came over and hugged the teacher before the game. The school district had said he was allowed to attend the game as a member of the public.

3 p.m.

A Washington state high school football coach placed on leave because he refused to stop praying on the field is expected to attend Thursday night's game.

The Texas-based Liberty Institute, which is working on assistant coach Joe Kennedy's behalf, said it expects him at the Bremerton High event. A group of self-described Satanists from Seattle who opposed the prayers said it will attend, too.

Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan says a few extra officers will be at the game. But he says all sides have been respectful and he expects no problems.

The school district said it was suspending Kennedy for the overt religious displays but that he was welcome to attend games.

On his Facebook page, where supporters were posting messages, Kennedy urged people to "forget me and come support these incredible young men" playing Thursday.

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11:10 a.m.

A group of self-described Satanists is still planning to attend a Washington state high school football game despite the school district placing a coach on leave because he refused to stop praying on the field.

The Seattle chapter of the Satanic Temple had asked to perform an on-field invocation Thursday night to protest the prayers by Bremerton High assistant coach Joe Kennedy. The district announced Wednesday that it was putting Kennedy on leave.

Group leader Lilith Starr said Thursday that she was pleased with the district's decision because it was "a strong position to keep church and state separate." Starr says about 10 members dressed in robes are planning to go to the game.

Kennedy's lawyer, Hiram Sasser, called the leave a hostile employment action and said they plan to file a discrimination claim.