Sunday, May 18, 2008


In 2008, there are many places within the community where autistic people are not welcome. I know this. I'm used to the idea, and often speak about the problems created by our society's disgraceful "insistence on sameness." Behaviors that are different, unexpected, outside the norm, have been used as excuses to remove autistics from stores, airplanes, playgrounds, just about any place you can name.
Somehow, though, this one took me by surprise. The family of 13 year old Adam Race has been ordered not to return to their Minnesota church. Served with a restraining order after attending mass on Mother's Day, and threatened with arrest this morning, the Races found it necessary to attend a different church.

What are they teaching at the Church of St. Joseph? Whom or what do they worship there? Church officials claim the young man's behavior is disruptive and frightens the other parishioners. I have to ask...somebody has to...what would Jesus do?



  1. This is absolutely appalling. I don't attend a church, but I thought they were supposed to welcome everyone. Appalling.

  2. Yikes. I'm glad my church hasn't done anything like this. There's a thread on AFF about this guy who was rejected from a church group or something after mentioning his diagnosis.

  3. I was raised in the Anglican and Episcopal churches. Seven or eight years ago, I contacted the diocese where I currently live. I was very clearly not welcome in the church I had been attending (for instance, they instituted an "eye contact test" for people wishing to participate in adult education), and I wanted to find another one. (Like Adam Race, I like the liturgy.)

    I was told that not only were there no churches in the diocese that would welcome me (and note that unless my church had reported me to the diocese, *all* they knew about me at the time was the A-word and the fact that I use a wheelchair), if the diocesan authorities ever found out that one did they would put a stop to it immediately, because "normal" people don't want to worship alongside autistic people, and my participation would damage their evangelism efforts.

    I was also told that in the Episcopal Church the Eucharist (which is a big deal to me) is not a big deal, so excluding me from it is not excluding me from anything even remotely significant. And that if I wanted "a sense of community" within the church, I was permitted to read their website. (Yeah, right.)

    Then I got the usual suggestion that I go live in an institution instead of bothering "normal" people.

    I have been welcomed in church for exactly one year of my entire life. When I was a teenager one of the youth leaders (the youth leaders had previously bugged my parents until they made me participate in the youth group, which I did not want to do) told me that her life would be easier if I committed suicide. Most of the time the rejection has been more subtle.

    Yes, I'm angry, but no, I cannot see what I can do about it. I'm not even managing to eat every day and get my medical needs taken cared for (and the only way I can get support services, apparently, is to be reinstitutionalized), so fighting for access to something I don't actually need to survive is beyond me. The church is hardly the only place that has treated me this way. The local CILs, for instance, apparently feel the same way.

    I'm really glad Adam Race has a family who will stand up for him. Everyone should, but not everyone does. And I hope the Races find a church that takes radical welcome seriously.

  4. And they went straight to the law, they didn't even try exorcism first!

    It's not advert for the religion that is for sure, but it the human behaviour, not the belief system itself which is at fault, as Jesus condemned similar hypocrites himself all full of the outward show of holiness and inside full of stinking corruption.

  5. I am grateful for my parish. When I told the head of religious ed that my daughter was autistic, she just asked what supports she needed. I have seen more rocking in the pews than most Catholic churches usually have, but no one cares. There is a section of church for wheelchairs.

    "What soever you do, to the least of these, that you do unto me".

  6. What Larry said.

    Ruth, perhaps the Races should move to your church neighborhood!

  7. I'm sure Jesus would whip that priest right out of the church and lecture him on what a house of worship ought to be.

  8. Very good question. WWJD? Considering the total lack of support we ever got from the Catholic Church it really does not surprise me that much. Sadly.

  9. They probably would be forgiven and then hear a parable about accomodating differences, or maybe the other way around. They know not what they do.


  10. It sounds like that boy finds church really distressing. A persona has to be pretty upset to spit, urinate and attack children.

    The Catholic Church does teach that it is a sin to miss Church on Sunday IF YOU CAN REASONABLY GO. Seeing as the boy is so upset, it might be better for him to go on a weekday, when the Church is less crowded and less overwhelming for his senses. Or he might be better off at another, smaller church.

    I'm not saying this to justify the actions of that priest. Churches should welcome everyone. However, I really don't think Jesus would insist that someone attends Church if just being there makes them so stressed they attack other people.

  11. I want to tell cal that the diocese was completely out of line, and I wish I could change that for you. I'm Anglican as well, and was raised in the church by parents who believe that disabled people should be given the same opportunities as everyone else. We regularly had adults in the house who had mental retardation, developmental disabilities, schizophrenia, etc. (My father is a priest.)

    Where do you live? If in Canada, I might be able to help you - and I want to know about it, as well, because this is completely inappropriate and should definitely be addressed at the level of the National Synod. And I DO have the ability to deal with it at that level; my uncle is a Bishop in the church.

    If in the USA, I may be able to get things dealt with at the national level there, as well, because I have an aunt in Oregon who is very active in the ECUSA and has no problem with being vocal about the rights of women, the disabled, etc. etc.

    It is the church that should be at the top of the list of places people should be able to find acceptance. And that is one specific injustice I am fully prepared to fight.

  12. 1st of all, Jesus was Autistic. Period. If the people had acted so hypocritical in his earlier years he would have had a meltdown, flipped tables and literally lashed out at the people in the church. Remember the bible passage of the scourging at the temple when he arrived to a temple only to see it being used as a flea market and swap meet? What did he do about it?? This is a seldom spoken of passage in the bible because it doesn't necessarily espouse "turning the other cheek". But, that was in Jesus' earlier years.

    So, I guess it would depend not only on "What Would Jesus Do", but also when in his life he would have done it.

    When he was just a kid he embarrassed his mom and dad because he eloped for a few hours and they couldn't find him and when they did they saw he had been spending hours with the rabbis at a temple debating with them his dissenting views on many matters of his special interests. The rabbis did not appreciate this from what they probably viewed as a smart-aleck snotty-nosed kid with savant-like features concerning the holy scriptures and how these applied to current-day theology and practices.

    But as he matured he practiced and preached his personal take on the idiosyncrasies of the day and he was very much into the economic and social inclusion of outcasts and people who were different. He very much welcomed them into the fold. He embraced diversity into a common good. And he was criticized for it as being "bad politics".

    He mingled and conversed with the hated tax collectors, the prostitutes, the thieves, the leppers and those who were deemed "crazy" or possessed. He seemed odd and broke norm by after he became famous washing the feet of others instead of others washing his. He practiced and preached his special interests with a steadfast and perseverative constancy of purpose, yet he was very opposed to sameness. Some of his followers were being exclusionary of non-Jews amongst them showing up for worship and Jesus stood up for these non-Jews and welcomed them into worship that they could also have a seat at the table. Same as those who had no money to contribute he said that as long as they had a song and a prayer they too could partake in worship and practice.

    By the time he was executed he had become extremely self aware and could keep his composure even under the most formidable of circumstances. But throughout his life he needed to find isolated places of solace where he could recharge and regroup, away from conversation and in silent contemplation. Like the 40 days and 40 nights at the desert and the time he spent at garden of Ghetsemany.

    People would say that his gaze was fixed and penetrating. He probably didn't blink in a typical fashion. He spoke in illustrative parables and analogies whenever he had the opportunity. And on and on and on. He spoke of the Good Samaritan, again showing that one can be righteous and good regardless of race, colour, creed, religion or ethnicity. He was probably fed up with that too. Some thought Jesus had no social boundaries because of this and would criticize him for that too. Eventually he himself was outcast by the status quo who felt threatened by his persistent and perseverative views. He wouldn't give it up.

    So, to answer your question: Jesus would have certainly welcomed this autistic child into the fabric of worship. And he would have said his piece to those who would have opposed the notion! xD And yes, he was autistic. :-D

    Imagine if King Herod had had his ways and not allowed him to be born?


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