Pennsylvania Church Denies Raffle Winner of Fishing Trip Because She's a Woman

Woman says she wants equal rights, not a pity prize.

Emily Smaniotto recently told reporters she was discriminated against when Bethel Baptist Church in North Union Township, Pennsylvania, disqualified her from winning a fishing trip through an organized raffle because she's a woman.

She was attending a wild game dinner event with her father when she and another woman heard their names drawn for a bowfishing trip in Ohio, but were denied the chance to go because it was a "male-only" event.

"They pretty much scolded us for being female," she told in an interview.

After Smaniotto heard an organizer say the trip was only for men, she saw another woman enter, so she alledgedly assumed it was a joke and submitted her own name.

"She was the first name to be called," Smaniotto said, referring to the other female. "As soon as they called her name, the pastor immediately shut her down. 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."

According to a statement released by Bethel Baptist Church Rev. Bryan Kelley, the church gives away certain door prizes every year that are available to everyone, and others that are only available to particular groups.

In this particular case, he pointed to a risk pastors face of being accused of sexual misconduct in today's social climate.

"Aside from what the church offered, the speaker on his own offered separate gifts apart from the church for men only and made it clear that was the stipulation," Kelly wrote. "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 the for men only. It was a matter of personal standards and protection and there was no intent of discrimination. 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 dames were drawn and declined because of the stipulations that were announced.

"I learned yesterday that the young lady was offended and tried reaching out to her dad today, who has always done the communicating for the event—unfortunately, there was no answer. 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 nat 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."

Kelly's statement didn't sit well with Smaniotto, who says she refuses to participate in any fishing trips with anyone from the church, stressing that she doesn't want a "pity prize," but rather equal rights.

She didn't spend too much time dissecting Kelly's position on the matter of sexual assault, but instead just stressed how special the trip would've been for her and explained how they could've have made the situation work for everyone.

"They're implying that women will always accuse them of sexual scandals," she said. "If they were afraid of this, maybe they should have made it a rule that more than one woman has to attend the trip, to even the numbers so to speak, to prevent this, but they didn't. They strictly kept it to only men and that was their "personal choice." It was not even an option to discuss the trip details if a female would have won. I would do anything possible to attend a trip like this."

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