No sanctuary

Breastfeeding mom asked to leave church sanctuary so men wouldn’t be ‘uncomfortable’

Annie Peguero - Facebook

During a sermon last Sunday, Annie Peguero, a resident of Dumfries, Virginia, was asked to leave the sanctuary of the Summit Church in Springfield when she began breastfeeding her 19-month-old daughter, Autumn. Peguero, who had received a text message from the church nursery during the sermon saying that her daughter was crying for her, returned to the sanctuary with the baby and began to nurse when she started to fuss. The mother of two was immediately approached by a fellow female churchgoer who offered to take her to a private room. When Peguero politely declined, the woman took her seat briefly but then followed Peguero out to the church narthex when she stood up to leave.

In a video livestreamed on Facebook Peguero, a personal trainer who said she often broadcasts live on Facebook, sometimes while breastfeeding Autumn, detailed the confrontation. She described how the woman first tried to explain that her comments had stemmed from the fact that the service was being live-streamed, and that she did not want her to feel embarrassed at being recorded while breastfeeding. However, Peguero recounted, the woman was unable to let the subject drop, and repeatedly badgered her, saying, “What if a new churchgoer that’s a man sees you and he feels uncomfortable?” She rationalized the haranguing by saying that church members were encouraged, if they saw a breastfeeding mother, to escort them from the sanctuary to a private room. At one point, Peguero recalled, another woman arrived on the scene and covered her baby daughter with a fleece blanket. Flabbergasted, Peguero sought out the church pastor’s wife who confirmed that the woman’s comments were considered to be church policy.

In 2015, the Virginia legislature passed a law stating that women have a legal right to breastfeed anywhere where they have the legal right to be. Peguero, along with a lawyer, are now pressing the Summit Church to reverse the unwritten policy and issue a statement regarding their conduct.

“I feel like my rights as a mom have been violated,” Peguero explained. “I have breast-fed in a few different countries. I have breast-fed all over the place. No one has ever said anything to me.”

The law, which was signed into effect by Governor Terry McAuliffe, states that women have a right to breastfeed anywhere that they are “lawfully present.” Before the law was passed, women had the right to nurse on any state-owned property, but it was left to the discretion of private businesses, such as restaurants or offices, to prohibit the practice. Within the current parameters, religious institutions are not exempt.

Although Summit Church has reached out to say they were unaware of the law, they have made no official statement. But for Peguero, the damage has already been done. She has no plans to return as a member and states that she no longer feels welcome. While she explained that she realizes modesty is an issue for many, she wants to encourage mothers to breastfeed as they see fit, with or without a cover, and to not allow the opinions of others dictate their or their child’s needs.

Peguero was left shaken by the whole experience, and became emotional in the Facebook video as she told the story. “I so loved going to church there,” she said, “but I’ll never set foot in that church again.”

Watch her full Facebook video below.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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