Canine Rights

Blind Woman Forced to Back Church Pew Because of Service Dog

A blind woman was humiliated when church deacons banished her to the back pew of her new church because of her service dog.

service dog

Cynthia Coleman says the way she was treated by church officials was ‘disgusting’ after she was forced to move to the back pew of the church because of her service dog.

Coleman, who is legally blind, with zero vision in her right eye and diminishing vision in the left, was looking for a new church. Pleased to have found one just two miles from her College Park, Georgia home, she even called ahead to make sure she and her dog, Hook, could be accommodated at the place of worship.

She and Hook were warmly welcomed when they entered the church for Sunday services. But shortly after finding a seat up front, she was approached in an aggressive manner by church officials that demanded she move.

“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 11Alive.

The deacons told Coleman she had two options – either move to the rear of the church or leave.

“I explained to them that if I sat in the back pew then it was just really not an option because I wouldn’t be able to see. I could only hear,” she said.

Although federal law grants access rights to disabled persons and their service dogs, religious institutions are exempt from those regulations.

“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 said of the ordeal she experienced. “In a public place, especially in a church, we should be welcomed with open arms.”

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Lucinda

    Jul 19, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    The actions of the deacons at this church, and the attitude of those who run it, are as anti-Cristian as they come. No one should be made to feel this way, especially a person with an animal that has been trained to assist her.

    • patrice

      Jul 19, 2017 at 5:56 pm

      well I suggest you keep on searching because it took me 20 years to find a small, bible believing, warm, truly Christian congregation. This church is certainly not a true Christian church. Jesus would have welcome her with open arms…not so these 'church people'…phonies looking for numbers and money only.

  2. Helen Witschi

    Jul 18, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    The deacons of this church are obviously NOT CHRISTIANS and should be removed from that position! I understand that churches are exempt, ALTHOUGH I DO NOT AGREE WITH THIS EXEMPTION, but if she was told she and her dog were welcome, she should sit anywhere she chooses and be welcomed! My church has a service dog attend off and on and no one even knows she's there most of the time but when they realize it, the smiles start! I guess it would certainly be poetic justice if the deacons were, like Paul, struck blind for a few days and made to understand the value of a seeing eye dog!

  3. Michelle

    Jul 18, 2017 at 11:49 am

    I think that it is disgusting the way the woman has been treated, anyone with a guide dog should not have to fight or explaine their selfs,,, the dogs are well trained for the reason of the person has or nearly lost their eye sight. So the people who have been horrible to the dog and person need to stand back and think before speaking.

  4. Jane Geiger

    Jul 17, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    Unless the dog was causing a huge distraction and disturbance, I can't believe those church officials, supposed "holy men", would be so narrow-minded and intolerant! She should have been made welcome, with love and sympathy, not treated like a pariah!

    I wish the article had mentioned the church, so I could write a scathing letter to them and any officials higher in the hierarchy than them.

    Shame on them!

    • patrice

      Jul 19, 2017 at 5:57 pm

      Yeah I'd like to know the name of the church and where it is located. Seems they need some witnessing to.

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