Amanda Zilliken, a mom of three, was nursing her 4-month-old daughter in the back of the second floor of the Ballantyne location of the church when a volunteer shone a flashlight on her and told her to move to the bathroom.
“It embarrassed me, and drew people’s attention,” Zilliken, 29, tells the Charlotte Observer. “To take me to the mother’s restroom was totally unacceptable, humiliating — and illegal.”
North Carolina law permits women to breastfeed in public or private, covered or uncovered. PEOPLE has reached out to Elevation Church for comment.
Zilliken says she finished nursing and then went, crying and angry, to the other volunteers to explain the situation, but says they were “unsympathetic,” and one told her, “Honey, you have to understand that my job as a volunteer is to make sure everyone is comfortable, not just you.”
The stay-at-home mom posted about the incident on Facebook, with a picture of the bathroom where she was forced to nurse, which drew the attention of Ariel Tauro, a breastfeeding activist in New Jersey. Together, Tauro and Zilliken are now organizing a “Nurse-In” during the 11 a.m. service on Sunday.
“It’ll be local moms coming together to breastfeed their babies where [Zilliken] was kicked out,” Tauro, 27, told the Charlotte Observer.
A similar incident occurred at a Virginia church in April, when a mother was also asked to leave during service. Pope Francis has said women should be able to nurse in church. “That’s the way it is. You mothers, go ahead and breastfeed, without fear. Just like the Virgin Mary nursed Jesus,” he said during a ceremony in January.
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Zilliken says there should be no reason to kick a mom trying to feed her child out of a church.
“That is what God made my body to do,” Zilliken told WCNC. “We should not have to be ashamed of doing something that’s good for our children.”