Author Topic: Boy’s removal from church service spurs UK debate on welcoming those with autism  (Read 1493 times)


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While this article is about autism and a Christian church, I have seen far too many Pagan groups in my life who did not want to accommodate people with disabilities.

King’s College Chapel at Cambridge University has one of the most famous choirs in Britain, known around the world for its Christmas Eve service, which the BBC has been broadcasting for the past 70 years. When Paul Rimmer decided to take his two sons to a choral evensong at the chapel two weeks ago (June 16), he expected his music-loving son Tristan would enjoy the service.

Instead the Rimmers’ visit brought headlines and an apology from the dean of the chapel and inspired a debate about how churches treat children and adults with autism after Rimmer was asked to remove 9-year-old Tristan, who has autism, for making too much noise.

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While this article is about autism and a Christian church, I have seen far too many Pagan groups in my life who did not want to accommodate people with disabilities.

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I think it's deplorable. In Eastern Orthodox churches and Hindu temples all are welcome, because all people are divine. Hindu temples can be rowdy places anyway, despite signs that say "Silence Please". That ain't gonna happen. Those wild and krrraaazy Hindus!

One night in temple there was an elderly couple with a boy I presumed to be their grandson. He was about 13-14 years old, a very big kid, and very clearly autistic, at the severe end of the spectrum. As I and others were at a sanctum for darshan (viewing the deity and receiving blessings), I heard a loud noise, a voice. The boy came running over, and promptly threw himself down on the steps of the sanctum. His grandparents came as quickly as they could, trying to get him to stand up. Now, no one but the priests are allowed into the sanctums.

The priest gave a disapproving look --- actually more like a stern and horrified "he can't sit there" (rituals would have to be performed because a non-priest entered the sanctum --- we Hindus do love our rituals), which I'm sure made the elderly couple feel like 2 cents. There was little they could do, however, given his size and their ages. The boy then decided to lie down on his back in front of the sanctum. Of course he was dead weight, especially given that he was laughing. The grandparents coaxed him, they pleaded with him. His grandfather tried to pull him up. I thought the next step was that the poor old man was going to drag the kid by his feet. They were clearly mortified, but they got sympathetic looks. Had this happened in a restaurant full of westerners, or even a church as we saw, someone surely would have made some unkind comment. Sorry, not sorry to say that. Westerners, especially Americans can be downright obnoxious at times. Y'know, never look down on someone unless you're helping them up. I wanted to cry for them.

I thought to myself "this can't go on, you gotta help somehow". As the kid was lying on the floor. I extended my hand to him and said "c'mon, you want to come with me?" He looked at me smiling a sort of shy giggling smile. I kept saying quietly "c'mon big guy, let's go sit over there OK?" I didn't actually think he would come with me or that I could do anything to help, but I needed to try. He took my hand and his grandfather's hand, stood up and walked to the back of the temple with me still holding my hand. We got to the back where his grandmother was already sitting. I said to him "good job!" and smiled. The grandparents thanked me, and I smiled at them.

The thing is that this boy had as much right to be in God's house as anyone else. No one had to right to tell the grandparents he could not be there. We look at it this way... who am I to tell a guest in someone else's house they are not welcome, when even the hosts don't?

So, that's my rambling view.


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