Ignorance Leads To Intolerance: Church Bans 13-Year-Old Autistic Boy

I am the father of a twelve-year-old autistic son who is nearly six feet tall and weighs 170 pounds, so I can most definitely relate to the anger that Carol Race feels about the way the Catholic Church of Saint Joseph is reacting to her autistic son’s behavior: Minn. mom fights church ban on her autistic son. I think she has lots of justification for her anger, and I think that parish leaders, and especially the Rev. Daniel Walz, need to take a good look at their beliefs and how they put those beliefs into practice. They need to ask themselves, what would Jesus do in this situation.

Isn’t there a story in the New Testament about a “madman,” someone who, according to the beliefs of that time, was possessed by demons? And didn’t Jesus’s disciples try to “protect” Jesus from this man when the man approached? And didn’t Jesus rebuke those disciples and, instead, embraced the man, and prayed, alsong God to cure the madman? And did God not removed the demons, sending them into a herd of swine instead? Mayve if Father Walz were more a better priest, he could cure Adam Race of his demons. Instead, Father Walz is more concerned about the social sensibilities of his parishioners and the niceities of ritual formalities. I think Jesus most definitely would condemn Father Walz and his flock as “a nest of vipers, Pharisees and hypocrites.”

I an not surprised at the reaction of Father Walz or his parishioners. I was a member of an high-church Episcopal parish back in Chicago before moving to Arkansas, and my wife was raised a Roman Catholic. When we were planning our wedding, we had originally intended to get married in a Catholic church, but that was impossible, because I had been married before, even thouigh not in a Catholic church. The Catolic Church does not recognize divorce and considers remarriage or marrying someone who is divorced as a form of adultery. And my wife was pregnant at the time 🙂 So we had a civil ceremony.

After moving to Arkansas, regular church attendance became very problematic, mainly because of our crazy work schedules. Usually, one or the other of us had to work on Sundays. But when Ian was about two or three, we started going to the local Episcopal church with the kids. Ian would start giggling or speaking “autish” during the service. We got much the same reaction that the Races got for Adam’s behavior. Rather than put up with the intolerance, we just stopped going.

We felt that God does not care if we attend church or not. God is not interested in outward appearances, but rather, he is concerned with what is in our hearts. The Races seem to think otherwise, and that is their right, just as it is their right to take Adam to church. How this situation plays out will be interesting to follow. I will try to monitor any news on this situation and post an update.

I showed the news article to my daughter and she brought up an interesting insight. She said, in a similar vein as what Libby Rupp, the mother of an autistic daughter, said at the end of the article. Heidi said that the reason for the church’s attitude was ignorance, a lack of understanding what autism is. She’s so right. Ignorance breeds intolerance. So many people do not understand autism or autistics, or any other developmental disabilities, and therefore they resort to intolerance.

Heidi gave a very good example of this. The local school district runs two special education bus routes for kids like Ian. Heidi rides one of the regular bus routes. When their bus passes by the special education buses. a lot of the kids make jokes about the “retard bus.” “Retard” is a term used to refer to deveopmentally disabled people in the same sense that “nigger” is used to refer to people of color – it’s not a nice word! And, IMHO, using either word is a sign of complete ignorance.

My suggestion to the Races: first, sue the Catholic Church for discrimination under the American with Disaabilities Act/ then, thumb your noses at them by finding a new church home. That’s what we did and Ian has always been welcome there, outbursts and all. The world is not completely full of ignorant people; it just seems that way some time.

For general information on developmental disabilties, I recommend these two sites:

  • US Center for Disease Control
  • Developmental Disabilities Resource Cente
  • r

    For specific information about autism, take a look at these two, and especially the sedond one:

  • Autism Society of America
  • Autism Research Institute
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