SPRINGFIELD, Va. - A Virginia woman said she was scolded for breastfeeding her baby at church during a morning service.
Annie Peguero said that she was approached by four different church employees chastising her for breastfeeding her 1-year-old daughter without a cover last Sunday. She moved from one location to the next until she finally left.
By Monday, the nursing mother said she was determined to tell the staff about the state's breastfeeding law, but they never responded to her calls. Now, she has retained an attorney and posted about the incident on social media.
"I just sat down in the hallway across from the baby room," she said. "I just sat on the floor and started nursing her and a church employee came up to me right away and covered up my baby with a fleece blanket. She said we have a lovely mom's room, and I said, 'That's great, thank you, but that's okay. I don't need it.'"
Peguero said she returned to the sanctuary only to be approached by another church employee.
"I was embarrassed," said Peguero. "Here she was standing over me during the sermon and it was very disruptive. I was singled out and I decided to leave."
She said on her way out, a pastor's wife then told her of the church's unwritten policy encouraging mothers to go to the "mom's room."
"She shared that men would feel uncomfortable if they saw me breastfeeding, teenagers would feel uncomfortable, and they didn't want to do that to men or teenagers or new churchgoers who might see me breastfeeding," said Peguero.
"A mom has the right to breastfeed a child anywhere she is legally allowed to be," said Peguero's attorney, Rebecca Geller. "There is no state law requiring her to cover up. Additionally, there is no religious exemption. This applies to a place of worship as well as any business."
Geller said Peguero contacted her after Summit Church never responded to several calls from the nursing mother.
"The church has been advised that's actually in violation of state law concerning breastfeeding policies and they don't really seem to care," said Geller.
Peguero has two young daughters and she said she has been nursing for four years and this is a first for her. She and her attorney are asking the church to make a public statement acknowledging Virginia's breastfeeding laws.
Summit Church said in a statement released on Friday:
"We celebrate all aspects of motherhood and encourage nursing mothers to breastfeed their children while they are with us. Breastfeeding has always been welcome in our church and has not been an issue in our nearly twenty years of ministering to our community. Many mothers prefer to nurse in an area set aside for their comfort or use a small cover, and so it is our custom to offer both and ensure our mothers know they are available. We are a diverse congregation whose members and visitors have many different cultural backgrounds, experiences and opinions. We are doing our best to follow the Bible by providing a welcoming environment for all people to hear God's Word. To accomplish this and to honor the Bible's instructions for unity in the church, modesty, and caring for one another, we ask everyone who worships with us to be sensitive to our church's diversity in whatever they do when they are here.
"We love Annie and her family and have always tried to make them feel welcome and loved. It grieves us to learn she may feel otherwise. We welcome them with open arms and hope they will join us again soon."