Autistic Child Thrown Out of Church

Reprinted from TheDeeZone

Last week ABC News had a report about Adam Race, an autistic boy, who was banned from attending Church of St. Joseph in Bertha, Minnesota. Apparently Adam had become so disruptive that the church considered his attendance a threat to others. Rev. Daniel Walz claims that accommodations were made or at least offered to the family. Now, a restraining order has been issued preventing Adam from attending services. The Races insists that no accommodations were offered and that the boy was not dangerous. While I am not personally involved, this incident has really bothered me. I have been processing the situation and formulating my response all week.

There is something about banning a person from church that just does not seem right. A church is supposed to be a place of refuge and worship for all. I have worked with teenagers long enough to know that sometimes it may be necessary, however a court order does seem excessive. I am just not comfortable with the thought of banning someone from church. Well, that is really not the point of this post anyway.

Growing up in a ministers home I have attended church my entire life and there as always been at least one disabled person who attended my church. As I reflected on the Races situation I begin thinking about observations I have made from my own interactions with disabled congregants.

Several years ago we had some friends at the church we were attending whose son was developmentally disabled son. Matthew* enjoyed attending church. It was not uncommon to here Matthew loudly proclaim, “Yeah! God!” or to cheer when our pastor came to the pulpit. When was the last time you saw someone be truly excited when the pastor started preaching? Matthew’s favorite place to sit was at the pastor’s feet. He had a desire to worship God. How many times do you are you really anticipate receiving a word from God?

Theo*is a pre-teen at our church who has Autism. Like Matthew, Theo loves attending church. He approaches worship service with much gusto. Theo loves to sing and makes a joyful noise. While some may consider Theo and Matthew disruptive I do not. Actually, I believe that both boys take a scriptural approach to worship. To them church is about God and not doing the right thing, pleasing others or appearing good. I have thought a lot about my own reasons for attending and what I do during Services. Am I really there to have a meaningful encounter with God or have other things gotten in my way?

A church is or at least should be a community of faith. In all communities diversity can or should enhance and enrich the community. It is only through interacting with those who are different from ourselves that we learn acceptance and hopefully learn to see past the differences to person. It is very easy to see only a person’s disability and not the person inside. For more on my thoughts on labels and disabilities read this.

*Names changed

by Dee

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Filed under Culture, Politics, Religion

12 responses to “Autistic Child Thrown Out of Church

  1. You may also find some of the pieces I wrote for my professional blog interesting as well. There is a link on the writing page of blog.


  2. Marie Parker

    This is sad. I didn’t even think this was real until about a month ago when the same thing happened to my family. My brother suffered a traumatic brain injury 8 years ago, which left him impaired in a lot of ways. One of them is making decisions and thinking about the consequences. He kissed an older lady after the service. (Just a smack, not anything perverse). Days later the pastor showed up at my father’s business asking him to let my brother “take some time off”. It wasn’t a suggestion. I’ve never been so appalled in all my life. And now this. When I attended church as a child I was taught the doors were open for EVERYone. Especially those with hardships, no matter what kind. Will we have to apply and be accepted in the future?

  3. There are a number of disabled persons who attend my church, including one young man who often loses control of his reactions and starts to yell. His parents sometimes have to lead him out of the worship center … I love him!

    He’s an awesome young man who loves fellowship with believers and loves God. I love seeing him sing, raise his hands, clap, and even jump up and down with excitement.

    There is nothing right about this … nothing at all. The Church isn’t supposed to exist for a group to be happy and comfortable … it’s a place for everyone to be healed and renewed.

    Even the kids with Autism.

  4. The situation is tough for the church as well because the boy is becoming dangerous to others.

  5. Jeff Price

    Tough for the church is just about the most ridiculus thing I’ve ever heard. I can bet if the Races were a heavy tither this would not even be brought up. Shut the doors, if your not in the healing, helping and compasionate biz. I don’t think you can call yourself a church.

  6. Dee,

    I’ll hunt you down. I can set you up as contributor. You can post stuff under your own byline??? Interested???

    Matt P.

  7. Jeff Price,

    Amen brother.

  8. What your are going to hunt me down? Oh know let me go find my cameo.

    More details on the contributer please.


  9. Dee,

    I browsed through your blog and some other material and thought it would be cool if you contributed on this blog. You can post as often as you like or just once in a while. I’d like to send you an invite. What do you say?

  10. Dee,

    P.S. I meant “hunt down” your written work…not you…not that way…sorry?

  11. Matt,

    Sounds good.

    I understood what the comment about me down was. My comment was serious.

  12. Matt,

    Just posted something you might find interesting.

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