One Michigan church has publicly apologized to a woman who claims she was shamed for breastfeeding inside the house of worship by a church leader, who described her actions as immodest and potentially inspiring “lustfulness” in men.
The Livingston Daily reported Monday that Ben Walls, Sr., lead pastor of The Naz Church in the Detroit suburb of Brighton, apologized to Amy Marchant for the June 17 incident on behalf of the parish.
The 29-year-old mother of three claims she was shamed for breastfeeding her one-year-old daughter inside the church while waiting for her four-year-old twins to finish Sunday school.
“Of all the places, it is most hurtful when it comes from your own church, that you are going to cause guys to lust after you,” Marchant told the Daily in an Aug. 9 interview, stating that she received a private Facebook message from a female church leader after she nursed her baby near the children’s worship area.
“Of all the places, it is most hurtful when it comes from your own church, that you are going to cause guys to lust after you."
According to Marchant, she had gone to pick up her twins from the Sunday school area when her youngest child “was getting fussy and asking to nurse.”
“I sat down on a bench and decided to nurse her like always,” she said. “I don’t use a cover.”
Later in the day, she was shocked to receive the social media message from the unnamed church leader shaming her for her actions, though no one said anything to her at the time.
“She said that "nursing fully exposed," the term she used, was making people uncomfortable,” Marchant recalled of the note. “She told me to cover up, use an empty classroom or go down to the main worship area, to part of the bathroom, but which has a nursing area attached to it. It wasn’t presented as an option. She told me to do one of those three things from now on.”
“Even if I wanted to go somewhere private, that’s not reasonable when I have to watch my 4-year-old twins, and legally speaking, it’s not something she is allowed to ask,” she added.
Pastor Walls said church staffers told him that Marchant “was wearing a dress that was pulled down with both of her breasts exposed,” the Daily reports, but that The Naz is “very sorry” for the humiliation caused to Marchant.
“We have nothing against breastfeeding and we are in favor. It’s very hard because we understand that she was very hurt and we apologize to her,” he told the outlet. “We’re very sorry for the embarrassment and hurt caused when she was asked to cover or use one of those rooms. We apologize for her hurt and embarrassment; that wasn’t the intention.”
The lead pastor added that there are three discreet areas in the church for “those who want a private space” to nurse.
Marchant met with church leaders to discuss the issue and the Breastfeeding Anti-Discrimination Act, which was approved by Gov. Rick Snyder four years ago. The law prohibits women from being denied public goods, services, facilities and accommodations because of breastfeeding.
Church staff seemed more focused on continuing to describe the incident as “immodest” and questioning whether she planned to sue than addressing the issue, she said.
“A lot of people have stopped nursing because of stuff like that, and I want to say something because a lot of people wouldn’t,” Marchant said.
Marchant said she doesn’t plan to return to the church.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.