The Church of Nazarene in Brighton, Michigan recently agreed to settle a discrimination lawsuit with a mother who was shamed for breastfeeding at the church.
It’s been more than a year since Amy Marchant was confronted at her former church, the Church of Nazarene in Brighton, Michigan for breastfeeding her child. As a result of the incident, she filed a discrimination lawsuit against the church – a lawsuit that was settled earlier this month.
The incident that sparked the lawsuit happened in June 2018 when Marchant was breastfeeding her one-year-old daughter “while watching her 4-year-old twns in the worship area.” While she wasn’t physically confronted at the church, she received a private Facebook message from a church staff member asking her to “cover up next time or go to a different room.” When asked about the message, Marchant said she felt shocked and added, “I honestly thought that we were kind of over that as a society, but I quickly learned we’re not.”
As if the private message wasn’t bad enough, Marchant also met with then-pastor Ben Walls Sr. and others. In that meeting, she was “told her action of nursing her child was immodest and could cause men to lust and stumble,” according to her attorney, David Helm. Helm added, “Essentially, Plaintiff was told that nursing her child could sexually arouse other men.”
A month later, she received an apology letter from the church, though Marchant claimed it was full of defamatory statements and allegations. Marchant said, “they said that I was nursing with both breasts fully exposed and the rumor turned into I was nursing topless.” When commenting on the matter at the time, Helm said, “there were later approaches from other individuals that said what she was doing was immodest and causing men to lust after her and it was inappropriate.”
In an effort to defend herself, Marchant hired Helm and began the process of filing her suit against the church. The suit was officially filed in June 2019. In it, Marchant accused the church of “invading her privacy and violating the Anti-discrimination Breastfeeding Act.” In addition to filing the lawsuit, she and her family left the church to “avoid future embarrassment and shame.”
Though details surrounding the total sum of the settlement have yet to be revealed, the agreement does call for the “money to be donated to two breastfeeding organizations, Livingston County Birth Circle and Breastfeeding Center of Ann Arbor.” When she decided to file the lawsuit, she did so hoping it would be a wake-up call not only for her church but for others that breastfeeding in public is totally okay. She also said society as a whole has to change the way it views women and breasts. She added:
“I think it goes way beyond breastfeeding at this point and I felt like my whole body was being sexualized. This isn’t a sexual thing at all and this happens to women all the time, and we’re also still treated a lot like we’re second-class citizens and that needs to stop.”