Cynthia Coleman, who’s legally blind, was searching for a new church in Georgia when she found one she thought would accommodate her and her service dog. She gave them a call in advance just to be sure, they said everything would be fine, and she showed up on a recent Sunday.
Before long, church elders were telling her she couldn’t sit up front and had to move to the back of the pews.
“Sitting down for about five or 10 minutes and about four or five deacons approached me in a way that made me feel very uncomfortable. Somewhat aggressive,” she recalled.
According to the now-retired Coleman, they told her that she couldn’t sit up front and had to move to the back pews with her service dog.
“It was discrimination. It was discrimination. I had never in my life been discriminated against. Never. And to be discriminated against for the first time, as a disabled person in a church is disgusting,” she said.
The dog wasn’t acting up. They weren’t causing a disturbance. But the elders were worried about what might happen. In other words, this was about their ignorance and fear, not her actions.
WXIA, the news station that reported this story, didn’t include the name of the church because nothing technically illegal happened here. That’s because churches are exempt from anti-discrimination laws. And when you don’t force people to treat others equally, religion often gets in the way of that happening, We’ve seen it happen with gay couples that want to buy a wedding cake and we’re seeing it now with a blind woman who just wanted to experience a church service.
The comment thread on this news site is almost as frustrating as the story.
(Thanks to Erin for the link)