A Georgia woman thought she found the perfect church. It was located in her neighborhood and would accommodate her service dog, Hook. Cynthia Coleman, 58, is legally blind, with no vision in right eye and only peripheral vision in the left.
However, Coleman was told to take Hook and sit in the back pew after they sat down in the front of the church during her first visit, WXIA-TV reports.
“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 told the outlet.
To no avail, Coleman explained that she could not see the pastor from the rear. But the deacons insisted that Coleman and Hook sit in the back over concerns that the dog would become agitated during the service.
“I was about in tears because we don’t choose to be blind, and we don’t choose to be disabled. I almost felt like the leper in the church,” she told WXIA-TV. “In a public place, especially in a church, we should be welcomed with open arms.”
Coleman believes the church acted inappropriately. She said the deacons could have admitted unfamiliarity with how to manage a service dog and asked her to explain “how this works.”
“It was discrimination. It was discrimination. I had never in my life been discriminated against. Never,” she stated to the station. “And to be discriminated against for the first time, as a disabled person in a church is disgusting.”
The church declined to comment.
[written by Nigel Roberts]