A mom who claimed she was asked to leave a service at Pastor Steven Furtick's Elevation Church in North Carolina for breastfeeding her baby in public is now organizing a "Nurse-In" during the 11 a.m. service on Sunday.
Amanda Zilliken, a mom of three, was nursing her 4-month-old daughter in the sanctuary of the Ballantyne location of the church when a volunteer shone a flashlight on her and told her to move to the bathroom.
"I just got kicked out of church for breastfeeding with a cover on and directed to the bathroom. Shame on you Elevation," Zilliken wrote in a Facebook post, which included a photo of the church's bathroom.
She claimed she approached 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."
"It'll be local moms coming together to breastfeed their babies where [Zilliken] was kicked out," Ariel Tauro, a breastfeeding activist in New Jersey, told the Charlotte Observer.
Reads the event description: "Amanda was asked to leave in the middle of church and escorted to the bathroom to continue nursing her baby "for the comfort of others". Lets come together and have a Nurse-In to support Amanda! EVEN IF YOU'RE NOT NURSING, YOUR SUPPORT IS WELCOME!"
Additionally, a GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help Zilliken pay for a lawyer so that she can file a lawsuit against the church. So far, $1,400 has been raised.
Zilliken later told the Charlotte Observer she was "embarrassed" and "humiliated" by the incident: "That is what God made my body to do," she said. "We should not have to be ashamed of doing something that's good for our children."
According to local news station WSOC-TV, Zilliken drives about an hour to attend the church service every Sunday and never had a problem breastfeeding her child there before.
In response, Elevation Church said that the church allows breastfeeding mothers to attend its services and even has several designated areas for breastfeeding mothers should they choose to use them. The statement added that it was a church volunteer who spoke with Zilliken about the matter.
The Elevation Church statement reads:
"We do not have a policy that nursing mothers can't be in the sanctuary.
A volunteer had a conversation and felt both parties arrived at the same conclusion to exit mutually. We are sorry that this in any way offended anyone. We welcome everyone and anyone to attend Elevation church.
We have several designated areas for nursing moms at Ballantyne specifically - one private to allow pumping and it's close to the auditorium for convenience and the other in the actual baby area with a TV to allow mothers to still be part of the worship experience."
Elevation Church is led by Furtick and is one of the largest churches in the country. Every week, the church draws some 20,000 attendees to its nine Charlotte area locations and thousands more online. The megachurch also has campuses in Florida, Virginia, South Carolina and Canada.