Christian school cancels autism week after pastor calls activities 'demonic'

Wikimedia Commons/Rantemario
Wikimedia Commons/Rantemario

In Florida, a private Christian school's decision to cancel Autism Awareness Week after the school's pastor claimed such an event is "idolatry and demonic" has sparked backlash from parents vowing to pull their kids out. 

Trinity Christian Academy in the Lake Worth Beach area, affiliated with the Pentecostal Assemblies of God denomination, faced backlash after Pastor Matt Baker announced the cancellation of the week's activities in a March 30 email to families.

Baker argued that these events led students to prioritize identities over their faith in Jesus Christ. The planned activities, similar to previous years, included themed dress-up days aimed at raising autism awareness.

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"The word 'Christian' means 'Like Christ,' and it was given to the followers of Christ because they acted just like Jesus," Baker wrote in his email message.

"Remember those bracelets from the 2000s that asked, 'WWJD?' If Jesus Christ led Trinity, would HE have an Autism Awareness Week? Of course not! Why? Because anything that exalts itself above the name of Christ should be brought down. Also, anything that teaches our children to have their identity in anything other than Christ is idolatry and demonic."

"Let me repeat myself just so I am not quoted out of context," he continued, "any philosophy, teaching, or program that teaches our precious children that their identity is found in anything other than Christ is idolatry and demonic. Period."

The pastor's stance has led to significant unrest among parents, with some considering withdrawing their children from the school.

Vanessa Francisco, a parent of an autistic adult and a daughter at the school, called on the school's board of directors to condemn his message as disgraceful and ignorant, The Palm Beach Post reports. 

"That email felt like an unprovoked attack on my family. A slap to the face I never saw coming and from our Pastor of all people," she was quoted as writing to school leaders. "How can we continue to allow someone so grossly ignorant to preach to our children, to educate our children in any capacity? His hatred for the autistic and disabled community is so enormously obvious, that I can not stand by and just accept what (Baker) tells me."

Andrea Gallik, a parent of an autistic child at Trinity, told WPTV that she will pull her kids out of the school. 

"I feel like my heart stops beating because not once but twice (in his email message) he (Baker) says that wearing this title of autism is demonic," Gallik told the outlet. "And my mouth was on the floor. I'm offended as a Christian because I feel that he is using the Bible for his own interpretation. And his interpretation is offensive. Not just to my son but to any child, adult afflicted with autism. Breaks my heart. It breaks my heart."

"Miles [her son] has started saying he doesn't belong in his class, and I just tell him that God made him perfectly," she said. "And this was a plan all along, and we just have to walk in it and know he's a smart boy and everyone who meets him loves him."

Following the backlash, Baker doubled down on his position in a statement sent to The Palm Beach Post.

"[T]he teachings of Christ are more than sufficient for ministering to all our precious children," he wrote. "[T]here were moral aspects of this initiative that were diametrically opposed to the teachings of Christ."

The pastor didn't detail the "moral aspects" of the initiative in question but stated that administrators have "recently been going through our school calendar and canceling and reframing activities and events to align with our Christian Worldview."

The school, serving over 400 students, also canceled its Easter egg hunt, he said. 

A teacher's aide has also been dismissed for sharing the pastor's email on social media, WPTV confirmed. 

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