Call for understanding in the wake of church autism ban

By agency reporter
May 20, 2008

Autism campaigners around the world are urging church leaders and clergy to understand the complex needs of children and adults with autism and Asperger's Syndtome in the light of a hugely controversial decision by a Roman Catholic priest, Rev Daniel Walz who has banned a 13 year old boy with autism from his church on the grounds of disruptive behaviour.

The Catholic priest's action has caused an uproar around the world.

Autism affects over 60 million people all over the globe. In the UK there are 500,000 people with autism. According to UK researchers 1 in 100 children are on the spectrum and numbers are rising.

Recently the United Nations General Assembly launched the first ever World Autism Awareness Day. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paid tribute to the courage of children with autism and their families, who strive every day “to confront the disability with a powerful combination of determination, creativity and hope.”

In his message marking the World Autism Awareness Day, Mr Ban Ki-moon stressed the need to build enabling environments for children with disabilities so they can prosper as future members of their communities, citizens of their countries and as fully-fledged members of the global community.

Ivan Corea, head of the Autism Awareness Campaign UK urged churches all over the world to try and understand what autism is all about and to go back to the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the radical inclusion that he practiced and preached.

"Churches need to reach out to the marginalised, the socially excluded, the downtrodden," said Ivan Corea who together with hiis wife Charika launched the Autism Awareness Campaign UK in 2000. They also initiated Autism Sunday which falls on the second Sunday in February every year.

Carol Race, the mother of the autistic boy, named Adam, found out about the restraining order when she tried to attend mass at the Church of St. Joseph, where she usually went on Sundays. Todd County Sheriff Pete Mikkelson appeared in her driveway to warn her she would be taken into police custody if she and her son entered St. Joseph.

Carol Race of Bertha, Minnesota in the United States, completely refuted the claims made by the priest and stated that Adam may be noisy at times, but they usually sit in the back of the church and try to stay quiet. She also said that the restraining order amounts to outright discrimination.

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