A Washington state high school assistant football coach who was fired for praying at midfield after games has sued the school district, saying his religious rights were violated.

The Texas-based First Liberty Institute filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma. It seeks to have Joe Kennedy restored to his job as an assistant coach for the varsity team at Bremerton High School, and it asks the court to rule that his postgame prayers are allowed.

Kennedy had prayed before and after games, sometimes joined by students, since 2008. The district asked him to stop when the practice came to its attention last year, but he persisted by silently taking a knee and praying.

The district argued that students could feel coerced to participate in religious activity when they see their coaches lead or endorse it.