Kayla Daugherty, Livingston Daily
Published 12:23 p.m. ET Dec. 16, 2019 | Updated 1:13 p.m. ET Dec. 16, 2019
HOWELL, Mich. – More than a year after Amy Marchant was confronted by a staff member at The Naz – Brighton Nazarene Church and told she was being “immodest” while breastfeeding her child, the church settled a lawsuit.
The church issued an apology last year, an apology Marchant claimed was defamatory, invaded her privacy, violated the Breastfeeding Anti-Discrimination Act and committed a breach of contract.
In Marchant’s lawsuit, filed in June, the 30-year-old woman accused the church of shaming her for breastfeeding her 1-year-old daughter while watching her 4-year-old twins in the worship area. The incident happened in June 2018.
Marchant and her family “felt compelled to leave the Church as a result to avoid future embarrassment and shame,” according to the lawsuit.
The case was settled Dec. 2, according to court records.
Marchant did not say how much she received as part of the settlement but said it was less than $25,000. The settlement calls for the money to be donated to two breastfeeding organizations, Livingston County Birth Circle and Breastfeeding Center of Ann Arbor.
The attorneys for the church did not respond to requests for comment.
Breastfeeding laws: Know your rights as a nursing mom in public and at work
After the incident, Marchant met with Pastor Ben Walls and other church staff.
“Plaintiff was told her action of nursing her child was immodest and could cause men to lust and stumble. Essentially, Plaintiff was told that nursing her child could sexually arouse other men,” Marchant’s attorney David Helm wrote in the lawsuit.
The church agreed to issue an apology and implement a new breastfeeding policy.
Marchant alleged the apology she was presented to approve after that meeting was different from the one published in various news outlets.
In the published apology, the church stated both of Marchant’s breasts were exposed and her actions made other parishioners uncomfortable.
“Both breasts were totally exposed. … From their perspective, it’s natural, we know, but we felt it inappropriate for boys and men, and we weren’t trying to shame, we were trying to deal with others who were uncomfortable and how they felt. Hurt, embarrassment and shame was not intended,” Walls said last year.
Attorneys for the church wrote in their response to the lawsuit that comments about lust were made only to Marchant, and they insisted Marchant was fully exposed “based upon eyewitness accounts.”
Marchant denied she was fully exposed and claimed the church “intentionally published the remarks to third parties with knowledge of the falsity of the statements and in reckless disregard of the statements’ truth or falsity.”
Church to update breastfeeding policies
Marchant said the settlement gives her a sense of relief.
“I didn’t even want a lawsuit. I told the judge that. They (The Naz) agreed on an apology … everything changed with that,” she said.
She said her family received criticism.
“Facebook messages … I got a letter sent to my job … people questioning my faith,” she said.
Marchant said advocacy is not something that comes easy to her; she was thrown into it by this experience.
“I wanted women to see it is a law and it is something they can speak up about,” she said. “They can make change in their community.”
As part of the settlement, the church will update its policies and procedures regarding breastfeeding, something Marchant said she wanted since the beginning.
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