ACLU of New Mexico Settles Lawsuit Against NMSU Football Coach

Affiliate: ACLU of New Mexico
June 21, 2007 12:00 am

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ACLU of New Mexico
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LAS CRUCES, NM – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico has settled a lawsuit against New Mexico State University (NMSU) head football coach Hal Mumme on behalf of four Muslim players who claim they were victims of religious discrimination. The parties have agreed to keep the amount of the settlement confidential for six months.

ACLU Executive Director Peter Simonson said that the settlement “vindicated the rights of our clients” and that “justice had been restored.”

“We are pleased with the outcome,” said ACLU cooperating attorney Joleen Youngers. “While we were eager to present our clients’ case to a jury, we would be foolish to turn our backs on a reasonable resolution outside of the courtroom.”

The settlement brings to a close a lawsuit that was filed on August 28, 2006 and that was set for a jury trial beginning next Monday, June 25, 2007. Three Muslim football players, Mu’Ammar Ali and twin brothers Anthony and Vincent Thompson, brought the suit alleging that they were discharged from the Aggie football team because of their religion. An additional Muslim player, Jacob Wallace, joined the case on January 17, 2007.

The lawsuit claimed that Mumme and the NMSU coaching staff created an environment hostile to Islam by emphasizing Christian prayer and religious beliefs, by making ongoing comments disparaging the Muslim players’ religion, and by demonstrating indifference to the players’ faith-based dietary restrictions. The suit also alleged that Coach Mumme disciplined Muslim players far more harshly than non-Muslim players who committed serious infractions.

Simonson said, “The circumstances that gave rise to this suit demonstrate the importance of keeping government out of religion. When one person uses his or her privileged position as a government official to advertise their specific religious views, it diminishes religious freedom for all of us, whether we are Muslim, Christian, or of any other denomination.”

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