Do churches have to permit service animals?
No. Churches and their public functions are exempt from the ADA Title III.
Which means that even public events do not have ADA protections.
Service Dog users must ASK before entering, it is up to the church.
Some faiths view all dogs as dirty and ban them from the property, including service dogs. If you work for a large church, you may bring your service dog to work under Title I.
Title I=Work, Title II=Gov, Title III=Public
Religious Organizations Are Exempt Under Title III of the ADA
The ADA's exemption of religious organizations and religious entities controlled by religious organizations is very broad, encompassing a wide variety of situations. Religious organizations and entities controlled by religious organizations have no obligations under the ADA. Even when a religious organization carries out activities that would otherwise make it a public accommodation, the religious organization is exempt from ADA coverage. Thus, if a church itself operates...a private school, or a diocesan school system, the operations of the...school or schools would not be subject to the ADA or [the title III regulations]. The religious entity would not lose its exemption merely because the services provided were open to the general public. The test is whether the church or other religious organization operates the public accommodation, not which individuals receive the public accommodation's services.
56 Fed. Reg. 35,554 (July 26, 1991).
This exemption for the facilities of religious organizations does not extend to non-religious entities that rent facilities owned by religious organizations.
Religious Organizations Are NOT Exempt Under Title I of the ADA
In addition, it is important to note that religious organizations are covered as employers under Title I of the ADA. Title I covers all employers with 15 or more employees. Under Title I, a religious organization may need to make modifications to a religious building to accommodate an employee with a disability even though they do not have to modify the building to accommodate other members of the public. Making facilities accessible for employees with a disability is considered a "reasonable accommodation" under Title I of the ADA.
One other thing of importance with regards to churches and service animals one area that many forget is that although the ADA does not directly influence churches and accessibility for service animals or other needs of the disabled is the area of public funding. In accordance to ADA any entity receiving public funding cannot deny access to the disabled to include those that require service dogs. Many people do not realize how much public or private funding their church operates from. All too often churches apply for federal and local government for grants and other public funding for their various services and projects in their communities. Churches can deny allowing an individual with a service dog but the government can also refuse or deny any public funding for non compliance with the ADA.
All SDIQ articles and trainings are written by long term professionals in the Service Dog industry and are meant to provide the reader with accurate, current information that will enhance the reader’s relationship with their Service Dog and the public, or a relationship with a Service Dog Team, as well as the reader’s knowledge of Service Dog applicable laws and best practices in Service Dog stewardship, handling, management, and problem solving. The information in the articles and trainings do not constitute legal training, nor legal advice.
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