Amanda Zilliken was quietly breastfeeding her 4-month-old daughter in the back of her church when she was approached by a volunteer. Shining a flashlight at the covered mom, the volunteer gestured to Amanda to get up and follow her to the “mother’s area.”
Filled with shame, Amanda followed the church volunteer to the bathroom, where she was told that “she could return to service when she was finished.” Upon questioning the woman, the volunteer said that she was moved not for her own comfort, but for “the comfort of others.”
I just got kicked out of church for breastfeeding with a cover on and directed to the bathroom ….. Shame on you elevation
Amanda had been attending Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, for years without incident.
Furthermore, her 4-month-old was not her first child, and never before had she been shamed for breastfeeding in public. Amanda felt humiliated. In a comment on her own Facebook post, she added:
It was really embarrassing and when I tried to talk to staff the men laughed at me!
A friend set up a YouCaring page for Amanda in order to raise funds for the mom to hire a lawyer to help them “normalize breastfeeding.” The goal of the fundraiser is to:
STOP the embarrassment and discrinination [sic] of breastfedding [sic] mothers!!!Also to provide an accessible, and adequate room for mothers to breastfeed in if they should CHOOSE to use it.
Upon hearing of Amanda’s complaint against them, Elevation Church responded with a statement, saying:
We do not have a policy that nursing mothers can’t be in the sanctuary. A volunteer had a conversation and felt both parties arrived at the same conclusion to exit mutually. We are sorry that this in any way offended anyone. We welcome everyone and anyone to attend Elevation church.
In North Carolina, as well as in 48 other states, it is illegal to discriminate against breastfeeding mothers. Dearly previously reported a similar incident where a woman in Illinois was told to breastfeed in a public restroom.
In response to the scandal, a breastfeeding activist from New Jersey, Ariel Tauro, is in the process of organizing a “Nurse-In” at the church in a peaceful protest. Over 80 people have expressed interest in the event over Facebook and it has received wide praise. Michelle Voyles, a fellow Elevation Church member wrote on the event page:
Love the idea of a nurse in, I am pregnant with twins so won’t be able to nurse but I surely will be going to support. I do love this church and will continue to go to it, and I intend to breast feed when my babies are here. I am glad this happened to raise awareness and maybe now it won’t happen again. Feel bad for the mama who had to go thru this. I hope (Pastor) Steven comments on this and does right by breastfeeding mamas.
The “Nurse-In” is scheduled to take place at Elevation Church on August 20. Kelsey Henderson, creator of the YouCaring page expressed her sadness with the series of events, concluding that:
“It’s a shame that breasts are so sexualized that a mother cannot peacefully feed her child just as Christians believe Mary fed Jesus, in a church of all places.”