Taylor Burch is legally blind. He cannot see in his right eye and his left has limited use. To help him in his daily activities, he had Indy (short for Independence) back in 2015 as his service dog and they formed an incredible bond.
Burch, a 29-year old resident of Bluffton, South Carolina, often go to Sunday mass at the Lowcountry Community Church. However, he and his dog were denied entry late in July, because of a very recent “No Animals” policy posted by the church outside.
He said he was let in for the service, but while he was looking for a seat, they were asked to leave.
“I’ve never been denied access and never in a million years would I think it’d be a church,” Burch said, according to a report by WYFF News. “I felt like this guy was joking.”
His sister posted the incident on Facebook, which was shared thousands of times and many people commenting their rage against what happened.
Pastor Jeff Cranston from the church explained what happened in a statement, saying that they have sought legal counsel in finding ways on how to accommodate service animals, all the while protecting the health of the people in the venue.
He said they found no legal way to allow all animals, so they instituted the restriction of access among all animals in a policy they instituted last April 2018.
However, due to what happened, Cranston determined they would abandon their previous policy and allow service animals at Sunday services again starting July 7.
“This is where we hope we can find common ground with Taylor and people like him,” Cranston said in a statement. “We hope to have conversations with our legislators to clean up the language of this law, because at times I think it penalizes people that the law was made for.”
Burch said he was grateful for the decision and hopes for a change in other churches, too.
“I appreciate [Lowcountry Community Church] lifting the ban on service dogs. I just hope other churches who have the same policy follow in your suit,” Burch said.
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