A Pennsylvania woman says she was disqualified from a church raffle and discriminated against due to her gender.
Emily Smaniotto had entered a raffle winning a bow fishing trip during the annual Wild Game Dinner at the Bethel Baptiste Church in North Union (Fayette County) when the troubles began, she said.
At first, the organizer announced the raffle was "for men only," but thinking he was joking, and with the the encouragement of seeing another woman enter, Smaniotto thought nothing of it.
The other woman's name was drawn first, according to Smaniotto.
"As soon as they called her name the pastor immediately shut her down," Smaniotto said.
"He said, 'Absolutely not. This is a male-only trip. Females are unable to attend so we're just gonna keep drawing names until we get a male.' So, surprisingly enough my name was the second one to be drawn and I got the same letdown, " Smaniotto said.
"They pretty much scolded us for being female," she told Action 4 News Pittsburgh.
Bethel Baptist Church Rev. Bryan Kelley issued a statement saying the raffle was not gender discrimination, rather, the trip was for men only.
"Living in the days of sexual scandals and accusations many pastors including myself, take the personal position that we will not put ourselves in a position that could bring about a false accusation and thus bring a multitude of problems, hence why he personally offered them for men only. It was a matter of personal standards and protection and there was no intent of discrimination," Kelley said.
"So when the cards for those particular prizes were collected, it was once again announced that the stipulation on behalf of the donor was for men only.
"Unfortunately, at least two ladies, for whatever reason, put their cards in that container although the stipulations were given twice and their names were drawn and declined because of the stipulations that were announced."
Kelley said he tried reaching out to Smaniotto's father following the incident.
"I would like to sit and talk with them both to express a sincere apology and to assure her it was a lack of communication on our part to explain all the information more clearly and a lesson learned to think things through more clearly so we do not make the same mistake again.
"I spoke with the gentleman that offered the prize and he is more than willing to arrange a time for her and her dad to go out together and fish together.
"The church highly respects all women and would by no means do anything intentional to make one feel they were discriminated against and once again express our deepest apologies to the young lady and will exercise greater caution moving forward."
Smaniotto was steadfast in her decision not to partake in fishing trips with the church.
"I was denied once and don't want a pity prize. I want equal rights."
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