June 8, 2008

Disabled Boy Banned From Church

After her church filed a restraining order to prevent her and her 13 year-old autistic son from attending, Carol Race decided to fight for her rights and the rights of other parents of autistic children. On one side, we have Rev. Daniel Walz of the Church of St. Joseph in Minnesota saying that Ms. Race's son, Adam, is "disruptive and dangerous." On the other, we have Ms. Race alleging discrimination. So who is right?

Ms. Race sees herself as defending the rights of her son and others with autism. She has even created a new website asking church leaders to reserve a pew for those with special needs. She acknowledged that her son can be loud at times but says that she does what she can to prevent disruption, often sitting in the back and trying to keep him quiet.
“There are thousands of families not going to church who don't feel welcome because they're afraid they look or act different. They came to church, someone turned around and gave them a dirty look and they walked out and haven't come back,” Carol Race said, as quoted by the local newspaper Minneapolis star tribune.
According to Rev. Walz, Adam's behavior was often disruptive. He is a big kid, weighing in at 225 lbs, who Rev. Walz accused of urinating in the church and striking another child. Adam, insists Rev. Walz, posed a threat to others in attendance. This is what led him to file the restraining order, he says.

I certainly understand why Ms. Race is upset. While I have difficulty understanding her desire to attend church, I tend to agree that she should have the right to do so. On the other hand, I am not sure why the minister and other congregants should have to put up with a disruptive individual, regardless of the reason for the disruption. It seems like they are seeking to prevent her son from attending not simply because he has special needs but because his behavior is disruptive. What do you think?