Ah, yet another feast from the legal/ethical divide, with seasoning from the minority/majority ethics balancing dilemma, and a side-dish of favored group arrogance and entitlement! The beverage? Why breast milk, of course!
Annie Peguero’s 19-month-old baby became unruly during the service at the Summit Church in Springfield, Virginia, so she nursed her, right there, in the church. She was quickly asked to move the operation to a private room, but Peguero refused.The church staff told her that it does not allow breast-feeding without a cover because the activity might make members of the congregation uncomfortable.
The mother of two left the church, and soon posted a livestream video on Facebook telling viewers her side of the story and urging women to stand up for breast-feeding.
“I want you to know that breast-feeding is normal,” she said.
Is it normal without any cover in a church? That church? Peeing is normal, but I wouldn’t rely on the “normal” categorization take a whiz in a pew. Farting is normal, but if I felt a big one coming, I would excuse myself. Eating is normal, but chowing down on a huge Italian sub during the hymns would be in bad taste. Sex is normal, but…well, you get the idea. Annie doesn’t.
To complicate the matter, breast-feeding is a legally protected right in Virginia thanks to badly written 2015 law that says women have a right to breast-feed anywhere they have a legal right to be. Dumb law, overly broad, and probably the result of pandering to the mommy lobby while assuming that mothers wouldn’t try to stretch the law to absurd limits. But Virginia also has a Religious Freedom Preservation Act, § 57-2.02, which says,
No government entity shall substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability unless it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is (i) essential to further a compelling governmental interest and (ii) the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
Do we really think that churches shouldn’t be allowed to have dress and decorum codes and policies?
Peguero is an attorney—of course she is!—and is pressuring the church to reverse its policy. “I feel like my rights as a mom have been violated,” Peguero she says.
This is an issue that shouldn’t involve the law at all. First, it’s as disruptive to bring a 19 month old to church as it is to bring her to a movie theater or a play, and when such a child gets obstreperous, the ethical, considerate, fair and respectful thing to do is to get her out of there. Second, simple consideration would dictate that as soon as Peguero realized that her breastfeeding au natural was bothering anyone, she should have removed herself voluntarily, or at least covered her breast. This is how societies and communities work; her conduct is how they don’t work.
Peguero’s conduct falls squarely under the Niggardly Principles, specifically the Second Niggardly Principle:
“When an individual or group can accomplish its legitimate objectives without engaging in speech or conduct that will offend individuals whose basis for the supposed offense is emotional, mistaken or ignorant, but is not malicious and is based on well-established impulses of human nature, it is unethical to intentionally engage in such speech or conduct.”
An astute commenter on Ann Althouse’s post (where she opines that the State cannot force churches to allow uncovered breastfeeding) about this incident nailed the circumstances, I think, writing,
“Churches have the right to exclude people. They very rarely do, of course. But on occasion it does happen. And if she feels the need to breast feed during the service, surely she could find one that is amenable to it. I wonder how any churches she went to before she found one where someone objected, so she could make a stink about it…”
To which another reader adds:
“It’s about respect, or more correctly the lack of it. Our hippie mama does not have respect for those around her, ignoring the fact that she is a distraction. I wonder what, if anything, she’s learned from Church.”
Pointer and Graphic: Althouse