BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The president of a private Baptist college in Louisiana on Friday disputed a lawsuit's claims that he refused to sign off on hiring a football coach because of the man's Jewish heritage.
Louisiana College president Rick Brewer said in a statement released by the school that he has been unfairly "vilified and determined guilty by certain persons from across the nation.
"I am not nearly as upset as I am hurt," Brewer said. "I feel wounded by such reactions because I love and worship Jesus Christ, whose shed blood is the reason I have a personal relationship with the eternal God."
Joshua Bonadona, currently an assistant football coach at Hendrix College, sued the Pineville college and Brewer on Wednesday, accusing them of violating his civil rights.
Bonadona's lawsuit says he applied for a job as defensive backs coach and was interviewed last May by Brewer and head football coach Justin Charles. The suit claims Charles later told Bonadona that Brewer refused to approve his hiring because of what Brewer called his "Jewish blood."
Johnny Hoychick, chairman of Louisiana College's board of trustees, said in a statement that the board "stands squarely with Dr. Brewer's administrative decisions because we know that his exemplary character and moral fortitude are inspired by Jesus Christ." He described Brewer as "a man of the utmost character" whose employment decisions "are always based solely on professional qualifications of the candidate."
"Louisiana College will not be intimidated by this suit or the publicity it seeks, and look forward to our day in court when all the facts are presented, which will support the dismissal of this lawsuit," he added.
Charles, who is not named as a defendant or accused of any wrongdoing in the lawsuit, said in an email Thursday that he is "not at liberty to comment on this matter."
Bonadona, a 28-year-old graduate of Louisiana College, was born into a Jewish family but converted to Christianity during his time as a student and kicker on the school's football team. He often led the football team's "Christian devotional," but it was a "widely known fact" on campus that his mother was Jewish, the lawsuit says.
Bonadona's attorney, James Bullman, said Thursday that private religious institutions like Louisiana College can be legally entitled to make employment decisions based on the religion of a job applicant or employee. But people of Jewish heritage are protected as a "distinct race" under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and federal law prohibits employers from failing to hire somebody on the basis of race, the lawsuit says.
Bonadona subsequently took a coaching job at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, for less money than Louisiana College would have paid him, the suit says.