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Student Says She Lost Scholarship For Refusing To Attend Coach's Church

The allegation is that a newly hired coach violated a student's first amendment rights.
Student Says She Lost Scholarship For Refusing To Attend Coach's Church
Image from: www.dsuhornets.com

I'll bet this is not that unusual. What's unusual, I think, is that the student finally refused to comply:

A former Delaware State University volleyball player is now suing her old school for allegedly serving up religious discrimination.

Natalia Mendieta claims she lost her athletic scholarship after she refused to attend church or participate in Bible studies - optional activities that were reportedly made mandatory by her coach.

Had this been a religious institution or religious college, this would not be an issue. The focus of this lawsuit is on a taxpayer supported state university.

The allegation is that a newly hired coach violated a student's first amendment rights.

Interestingly, when they first met a couple years ago they hit it off.

Mendieta explained her first impressions of her new coach, LaKisha Killingsworth, by saying, "She knew what talking about on the court. Personally she was really easy to talk to, and she had really good advice."

When focusing on the game, everything clicked. Off court, however, came an uncomfortable demand.

"Church was mandatory during preseason on Sundays... to her church. We had to go as a team," Mendieta said.

In a recently filed lawsuit it's alleged the coach put both church and a Christian study meeting on the official team calendar.

Text messages were sent to remind teammates, including Mendieta.

Her attorney, Michael Raffaele, tells us, "She was required to attend church on Sundays at a Pentecostal church in Dover. She was required to attend the Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings and participate in Bible study there."

Mendieta, raised Roman Catholic, was uncomfortable going to the coach's protestant church. But she explains that she said little in protest, not wanting to risk her scholarship.

She explains, "She controls whether I stay in school or not. The only way that I could afford school was through my scholarship. So technically, volleyball was my job."

Eventually she wrote a letter, saying she would go to a Catholic church. She says the coach though then became critical of her on court play.


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