I read the story back in early August of a veteran being asked to leave his service dog outside a church by a deacon. Spc. Kristopher Magstadt had just delivered his daughter to the children’s area when the deacon confronted him. Sadly, this faithful veteran and his family were needlessly driven out of the church that day.
This is certainly not the first time a challenge of this nature has taken place in a church. Mother, Johnna Wheeler wrote in April, 2013 of her sudden need to find a new church home because of her service dog. She makes note of the fact that Jesus served the least and the lost, and wonders why those turning her away have lost sight of that. Rather than worrying about extending the compassion of Christ, churches like Magstadt’s and Wheeler’s worry about whether an assistive animal will distract the average attendee or block the flow of foot traffic in the building.
Hearing stories like these made me concerned about having a guest with a service dog come to my own church. This prompted me to ask the assistant lead pastor ahead of their arrival, if it would be a problem. He assured me it would be fine, but I still found myself looking over my shoulder as I welcomed my friends. It worked out fine as wonderful Rusty was a complete gentleman in the 3rd row during the service, and everyone in the church was more than kind. It really was not a big deal. If only more churches knew what a simple, easy accommodation this is!
It may surprise you to learn that churches are not subject to the rules of the ADA. Nevertheless, if the Body of Christ is truly to be the hands and feet of Jesus, then churches should go above and beyond the ADA. This begs the question, Should Their Be a Standard Church Practice for Service Dogs? How can we welcome our friends with working animals into our congregations with excellence? What would best practices look like for welcoming those with assistive animals? Your input and feedback are most welcome. Please leave us a response in the comments section below.