BLUFFTON, Sc. (WTOC) - UPDATE: WTOC spoke with the lead pastor of Lowcountry Community Church on Tuesday after a man was kicked out of the church for having a service dog.
“People abuse the ADA Title 3. We don’t want to put up any barriers to for anybody who wants to come here, but we were having enough problems with people who were abusing the law and coming in with any and every kind of animal - untrained, unregistered, and not responding to voice commands, etc,” Lead Pastor, Jeff Cranston said.
The pastor says as of this weekend, the church is removing the No Service Dogs barrier, and people with service dogs will be welcomed. He also says going forward, the church hopes to work with service dog trainers and state lawmakers to help spot properly certified service animals.
A Lowcountry man is feeling humiliated on Monday after he was kicked out of a church for having a service dog.
Taylor Burch says it happened on Sunday at Lowcountry Community Church in Bluffton. The post below was made by the man’s sister, which has received thousands of comments and shares.
Taylor Burch says after what he thought would be a day of worship service, turned into him not only never wanting to step foot on these church grounds ever again, but he also wants this to be a message to prevent this from happening to other people like him in the future.
“This has never happened before, we’ve never been to a church that has turned us away because of my guide dog,” said Burch.
29-year-old Burch and his 5-year-old pup, Indy, are normally welcome in most places. However this time they were turned away from a place Burch says everyone is supposed to be accepted: a church.
“This older gentlemen was helping me to my seat, when a church official with a badge approached me and says can you come with me," Burch said. "I thought I had done something wrong, I was going to be arrested because he took me in another room and shut the door.”
Burch said because of his disability it makes getting around without Indy much harder.
“In order to get a guide dog, you have to be totally blind or legally blind," said Burch. "I’m legally blind I have no vision in my right eye and I have tunnel vision in my left.”
After being questioned by the members of the Lowcountry Community Church in Bluffton, Burch says he was humiliated.
“He then asked what my disability was, why I needed the dog, was I totally dependent on the dog, was I really blind,” Burch said. “I felt devastated, I mean I was going to worship God and I didn’t know churches were allowed to do that.”
Signs are posted on the door barring animals from entering, but the notice is written in very tiny writing, making it difficult for someone who is legally blind to see them.
“They need to make it in big bold red letters and maybe even braille,” said Burch.
Lowcountry Community Church responded to Burch’s Facebook post which reads in part quote “the size of crowds make it very dangerous for any animals to be in the worship center.”
We did our own research, and according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, churches are exempt from having to abide by ADA laws in regard to service dogs, so the church legally doesn’t have to let any kind of service dogs in.
Burch says he wants to share his story because something needs to change.
“The pastor stands by what happened and there’s a better church out there for me,” Burch said.
Below is a statement from the Lowcountry Community Church.
A service animal is defined as a dog that has been trained to do work or perform tasks.
In other words, the dog must be trained to take a specific action to help a person with a disability.
Emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals are not considered service animals... Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task.
The Department of Justice has a list of frequently asked questions on it’s website. Click here for more info.