A self-described “hippie mama, former cop, military spouse” is attracting national attention after she says she was pressured to leave a church service for openly breastfeeding her daughter.
“It’s blowing my mind that they’re in violation of the law and they just don’t care,” Annie Peguero, a certified personal trainer and mother of two who lives in Dumfries, Va., said in one of two Facebook videos she’s made about the incident, which occurred on Sunday at the nondenominational Summit Church in nearby Springfield.
The Virginia state law she refers to went into effect in 2015, and it guarantees mothers the right to breastfeed in any public or private location that they are otherwise allowed to be. Further, it protects breastfeeding mothers from being in violation of the state’s indecent-exposure law.
“I’m upset because I love this church and my very good friend brought me there, and I’m just so afraid of what it’s going to do to our relationship,” Peguero continues in her Apr. 26 video post, which has more than 4,500 views. “But I have to stand up for breastfeeding moms, and I have to stand up for my baby and my rights as a mother and women all over Virginia. … Churches are not exempt. No one is exempt from this law.”
Though many of her hundreds of commenters have posted messages of support and outrage — one pointing out that even the pope has come out in favor of public breastfeeding many times — some have blamed her for not covering up and being more discreet. To which Peguero says, to women, “If you want to wear a cover, wonderful. If you don’t want to, then don’t cover. Don’t allow yourself to be part of that movement to continually objectify our bodies.”
In her first Facebook video about the incident, posted on Apr. 24, which has since attracted more than 10,000 views, Peguero nursed her 19-month-old daughter, Autumn, while going into depth about what had transpired. After first breastfeeding Autumn out of the sanctuary and near the childcare room — and being approached by a nervous-seeming staffer who attempted to cover her baby with a blanket — she left both of her girls in the childcare room and went into the sanctuary to hear the sermon.
“I was enjoying the message,” she says, when the childcare room texted her that she was needed, so Peguero went to get Autumn to bring her baby with her back to the sanctuary. When the infant began to fuss, Peguero breastfed her. “And right away, a woman came over to me and was like, ‘We have a really nice baby room — let’s go to the baby room.'”
When Peguero said she’d rather stay, she says she was told, “No, we have to go to the baby room now. Come on, I’ll take you.”
She still refused, as her baby was done nursing but then decided to leave, as she could no longer focus on the service. The woman followed Peguero, explaining that her concern was that the service was being filmed and streamed live. Peguero said she was not worried about that. She was then told, “‘What if a new churchgoer, a man, sees you, and he feels uncomfortable? What if a man sees you and he feels uncomfortable?’ She kept saying that over and over again, and my mind is blown.”
Peguero eventually spoke with Pastor Stephanie Trayors, asking if it was church policy, “and she said, yes, it is because we don’t want to make a man feel uncomfortable in church, and we don’t want to make a new churchgoer feel uncomfortable.”
Trayors did not respond to a request for comment from Yahoo Beauty. And no one at the church responded to Peguero’s requests for continued discussion, she says, which is why she has retained a lawyer about the church’s violation of law.
Peguero also did not respond to Yahoo Beauty’s request for further comment, although she’s shared much about her life on her business website and on Facebook — including that she “used to be high-strung, impossible to be around, difficult, violent, a chain smoker, and a drunk,” and that she is a former federal agent who left her career in 2010 to move to Okinawa, Japan, “because I fell in love with a marine.”
She’s also adopted, and recently, through a Facebook plea, found the identity of her birth mother, only to discover that the mother had died 26 years ago.
This was the first time Peguero had attended Summit Church and it was at the invitation of a friend. “The service was awesome and it seemed as if Pastor Eddie was speaking directly to me,” she said in a blog post.
Now the church is silent. And although its website has a lot to say about its beliefs and mission, including to “provide everyone a life-giving, knowledge-based, and exciting church experience they will want to return to,” Peguero said this: “I’ll never set foot in that church again. And it makes me really sad.”
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