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Church settles breastfeeding lawsuit after telling mother she could cause men to lust

Church settles breastfeeding lawsuit after telling mother she could cause men to lust

A woman (R) breastfeeds her baby while another one bottle-feeds another, during the Defi Allaitement (Breastfeeding Challenge) in Quebec City, on Sept. 24, 2011. | (PHOTO: REUTERS/MATHIEU BELANGER)

A church in Michigan has settled a lawsuit brought against it by a mother who claimed she was shamed by church staff for breastfeeding her baby during a service in 2018. 

Mother Amy Marchant, 30, filed a lawsuit against Brighton Nazarene Church in June regarding an incident that happened about a year earlier. 

Marchant claims she was told she was being immodest by breastfeeding her infant child while at the church service in June 2018. After voicing her displeasure, she later met with former lead pastor Ben Walls Sr. and was told that her exposure could cause men to “lust and stumble.”

The lawsuit claims that the embarrassment suffered caused Marchant and her family to leave the church.  

According to Livingston Daily, the lawsuit was settled on Dec. 2 but it is unclear how much Marchant received as part of the settlement. However, she informed the newspaper that she received less than $25,000.

The settlement requires that the money paid in the settlement be donated to the Livingston County Birth Circle and Breastfeeding Center of Ann Arbor. 

The church issued an apology last year but claimed that Marchant had both breasts exposed and caused others to feel uncomfortable. However, Marchant has denied the claim that both breasts were visible.

According to the Livingston Daily, Marchant accused the church of publishing the remarks to third parties media companies with knowledge of the falsity of the statements and in “reckless disregard of the statements' truth or falsity."

Although Pastor Walls Sr. told the media that the church is not against breastfeeding, he stressed that it had three different spaces set aside for those in need of a “private space.”

As part of the settlement, the church has agreed to implement a new breastfeeding policy. 

In 2014, Michigan passed a law giving mothers the right to nurse children in any public place. Marchant and her attorney, David Helm, accused the church of violating the act. But the church maintains that it did not violate that law. 

"This whole case arises from a church and its congregation who seem to have some internal impulse to sexualize a breast-feeding mother and impose their own morality on my client in violation of the Breastfeeding Anti-Discrimination Act," Helm told Livingston Daily in October. 

Helm argued that the church created a false narrative by accusing his client through the media of being nude from the waist up. 

"This simply did not happen,” Helm assured. 

Brighton Nazarene Church is not the only church to have faced backlash over breastfeeding. 

In August 2017, a mother complained that she was asked by a volunteer at Steven Furtick’s Elevation Church in North Carolina to leave a service while she was breastfeeding. Supporters on social media organized a "nurse-in" protest at Elevation’s Ballantyne campus.

Elevation Church issued an apology and stated that the church has several designated areas for nursing moms at the Ballantyne campus, with one of those being private.

“We are sorry that this in any way offended anyone,” the Elevation Church statement at the time read. “We welcome everyone and anyone to attend Elevation church."

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