Student Sues Delaware University Claiming She Lost Scholarship for Refusing to Attend Church
A student has sued a public university in Delaware for reportedly losing her sports scholarship due to refusing to attend worship at a local church.
Natalia Mendieta filed the suit against Delaware State University earlier this month in district court in Wilmington.
A Catholic student who was part of DSU's volleyball team, Mendieta alleged that coach LaKisya Killingsworth forced her and her teammates to attend Calvary Assembly of God.
"Ms. Mendieta believed that her relationship with Coach Killingsworth would suffer if she refused to attend the coach's church and, if she did, she would receive less playing time and her scholarship might not be renewed for the following year," reads the lawsuit in part.
"Therefore, with great reluctance, Ms. Mendieta attended services at Calvary with Coach Killingsworth and the rest of the team during preseason."
According to Mendieta, after writing a letter to Killingsworth specifically refusing to attend services at Calvary Assembly, the relationship between the coach and the student rapidly deteriorated.
"That autumn, after Mendieta and several of her teammates missed curfew by a few minutes, Killingsworth allegedly informed her that her scholarship for the 2015-16 school year would not be renewed," reported Courthouse News.
"Mendieta says she appealed the decision in accordance with university procedures, but was denied despite having remained her academic eligibility with the National Collegiate Athletics Association."
The lawsuit as garnered much attention, including from the Washington, DC-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
On the Americans United blog "Wall of Separation", Sarah Jones argued that a "volleyball team is not a religious ministry; it's a secular athletic program funded by Delaware taxpayers."
"Killingsworth had a responsibility to respect the constitutional rights of her student athletes, and if Mendieta's allegations are accurate, she egregiously betrayed that responsibility," wrote Jones.
"There are a number of religious colleges in the country that would have permitted her to engage in these religious activities. DSU, however, is not among them."
Mendieta's attorney David Finger and DSU were both contacted by The Christian Post, but neither returned comment by press time.