WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the Congressional Prayer Caucus is denouncing a Seattle-area school district's suspension of an assistant football coach for praying at midfield after games.

In a House speech yesterday, Virginia Republican Randy Forbes said the Bremerton School District was violating Coach Joe Kennedy's religious rights.

District officials put Kennedy on paid administrative leave because he ignored orders to stop overt religious displays on the field. Citing past Supreme Court and appeals court cases, officials said they did not want to be seen as endorsing religion.

While students sometimes joined Kennedy, his lawyers insist he was not leading them in prayer, just praying himself.