Mom: ‘Loving thy neighbor also includes persons protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act’
A pastor at McLean Bible Church told a family that it could not attend Easter services with their disabled child because the child could not wear a mask. This is contrary to established local and state mandates, CDC recommendations, and common practices regarding those who medically cannot wear a mask.
Earlier this year, the family had inquired about attending the Easter Service at McLean Bible Church and the church was unresponsive regarding exemptions for mask mandates. The CDC has an exemption to the mask mandate, but Mclean Bible Church was relentless in enforcing their mandate. The family reached out through a personal acquaintance to Elder and Pastor of Preaching and Culture, Mike Kelsey. The family was told that Kelsey would not make an exception from the mask requirements to attend services in person even though the child has a medical condition that makes wearing a mask dangerous.
“Our protocols right now do require masks in our buildings but we are considering adding a 1 p.m. gathering at MBC Tysons where masks would be encouraged but not required,” Kelsey told the family through the mutual friend in a message. Kelsey directed the family to contact the ACCESS Ministry team.
The church never added the third service, which would have been at 1:00pm. In fact, under David Platt and Kelsey, with in person attendance lower than it has been since the 1990s.
One can only conclude that McLean’s “no exceptions” policy is based on their own preference and not “science” or rooted in logic.
The ACCESS Ministry is a special needs ministry based at McLean Bible Church. It was operating special socially distanced areas for the Easter service to allow families with special needs to attend worship together in-person.
Also, the ACCESS Ministry of McLean Bible Church insisted on masking all children.
The mom we spoke with requested exemption from the mask policy by pointing out that disabled persons not able to wear masks were exempted from masking orders.
Her child is nonverbal and developmentally delayed—so it would be difficult if not impossible for the child to communicate danger. Also, given the medical issues the child faces, there was a serious risk of choking.
Based on these issues, after consultation with the National Americans with Disabilities Act Office, the family requested a reasonable accommodation. Specifically, the family requested to bring him in a stroller wheelchair with a canopy and have him sit the family spaced apart from other families.
According to the mom, “That request was denied. Thus, there was no way we could enter the building.”
She wrote to McLean Bible Church pointing out the church has an obligation to disabled people too.
She said, “In all loving due respect, I pray the church takes into consideration loving thy neighbor also includes persons protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the most recent executive order provided by the Governor for VA. There are very rare exemptions, but legally I think it may be important.”
Also, the mom pleaded for exemption by pointing out the social consequences of this mask policy.
The mom told the church while asking for exemption from the mask requirement, “(Our child) has been home the entire year. Maryland and Virginia schools were not making their at-risk population wear masks. I was surprised but very thankful…I was just thinking if the masks continue for another year or two it may get more isolating.”
That is too often the experience of special needs families.
Now, mask policies further isolated families. This highlights how masking caters to the fears of the masses instead of the needs of the most vulnerable and socially isolated families.
After Easter, a staff member told the mom that they might be able to let the child come in “maybe” not wearing a mask if the family could make it past security.
Mike Kelsey is the pastor who made inflammatory remarks about wanting to “torch white people.” Kelsey, who told the family there would be no exemptions from the church masking policy during the Easter service, marched in a Black Lives Matter supporting event while holding Black Lives Matter supporting signs.
Kelsey also tweeted how response to the Covid-19 Pandemic is a moral issue.
He said, “My parents just told me they know 7ppl who have died of covid…THIS WEEK! Let that sink in. Your response to this pandemic isn’t just a political issue. Not even just a public health issue. It’s a moral issue. Pls be safe. And pls consider the most vulnerable around you.”
However, McLean Bible Church rejected pleas from the most vulnerable to participate in worship.
“The fact they would not make an exemption, or a reasonable accommodation really hurt us,” the mom told the Capstone Report.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to make it clear the family was trying to attend Easter services at the Tysons Campus.