While Big Tent Judaism was designed for Jewish communal institutions, its message is universal. The idea of creating an opening and welcoming environment is one that transcends Judaism – it can be applied to any religion seeking to grow and strengthen their community. That’s why we were disheartened to read about a church in Minnesota that filed a restraining order against the parents of a 13-year-old autistic boy in order to keep the boy out of church.
The church claims the boy, who stands at 6 feet and over 200 pounds, is unruly and out of control, and it’s for the safety of the parishioners that the boy be kept out of church. But the boy’s parents say the claims are exaggerated, and that his autism, while sometimes difficult to manage, does not put the other churchgoers in any danger. They are upset the issue has been turned into a criminal matter.
Since we are not involved in the matter, it would be futile for us to say who is right and who is wrong. What concerns us is the message this might send to others who care for family members with disabilities. Religion shouldn’t discriminate or shut out anyone who might find comfort in its tenets, and we hope the boy and his family ultimately find a parish where they will feel welcome.