- A woman was barred from winning a fishing trip at a church in Pennsylvania Saturday.
- A pastor said the trip was only being offered to men to avoid a “false” sexual accusation.
- Researchers say false accusations are extremely rare.
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A woman said she entered a raffle at a dinner held at a church in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, only to find out her gender made her ineligible for the prize.
Emily Smaniotto told local outlet WTAE that she attended an annual wild game dinner with her father at the Bethel Baptist Church. As an avid hunter and fisher, Smaniotto entered the raffle to win a spot on a bow fishing trip.
When the item was announced, Rev. Bryan Kelley said the prize was only for men and said those who enter should “leave your wives at home,” Smaniotto told The Washington Post. But Smaniotto thought it was a joke and after seeing another woman enter, she did too.
The other woman’s name was first to be called as the winner, but Kelley reiterated it was a “male-only” trip and said he would draw until a man’s name was called. Smaniotto’s name was called next, and she too was denied the prize.
“They pretty much scolded us for being female,” Smaniotto told WTAE.
In a statement about the incident, Kelley blamed “false accusations” as the reason a woman could no go on the fishing trip, which would be attended by multiple people from the church, according to Smaniotto.
“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,” Kelley said. “It was a matter of personal standards and protection and there was no intent of discrimination.”
Researchers say false accusations are extremely rare.
The reverend also said the person who offered the initial prize has since volunteered to take Smaniotto and her father on their own fishing trip, but Smaniotto refused.
“I absolutely will not partake in any fishing trips with anyone from that church. I was denied once and don’t want a pity prize. I want equal rights,” Smaniotto told WTAE.
In 2017, Vice President Mike Pence received criticism over similar standards about being around women. The Washington Post reported that Pence had said he would not dine alone with women who are not his wife.
The so-called Billy Graham rule, named for the prominent evangelical Christian who was among the first to practice it, is followed by some evangelical leaders. It says men should avoid spending time with women to whom they are not married.