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