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Private school cancels Autism Week after pastor calls it 'demonic'

Parents are outraged at the way lead Pastor Matt Baker described the decision not to honor autism awareness at Trinity Christian Academy in Florida.
Private school cancels Autism Week after pastor calls it 'demonic'
Posted at 10:24 AM, Apr 08, 2024

A time that is meant to bring awareness about those who are on the autism spectrum was canceled at a private school in Palm Beach County, Florida, leaving some parents heartbroken and full of questions.

An email from the lead pastor at Trinity Christian Academy described recognizing Autism Awareness Week as "demonic."

Several parents sent copies of the email to Scripps News West Palm Beach this week, outraged at the way lead Pastor Matt Baker described the decision not to honor autism awareness.

Andrea Gallik is a mother of two children, a 9-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son, who attend Trinity Christian Academy.

Her son Miles was recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in November. Still fresh in their journey with ASD, she was blown away by the words Baker used in his message to the school community.

In his email, the pastor wrote the following:

"The word 'Christian' means 'Like Christ,' and it was given to the followers of Christ because they acted just like Jesus. 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: 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 world, in its rejection and hatred of Christ, often devises programs such as 'Autism Awareness' (and cultural figures like the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause, etc.) to get the benefits of His teachings (compassion, kindness, feeling love, and self-worth) without acknowledging Jesus as the ultimate authority and the source of all life. These initiatives imply that Jesus alone is insufficient, and we fail to recognize just how deeply they have permeated into our daily lives as Christians. As a result, we have 'a form of godliness but deny its power (2 Timothy 3:5).'"

Gallik said she was left in tears, and she'll be pulling her kids out of the school.

"The email comes, and I feel like my heart stops beating because not once but twice he says that wearing this title of autism is demonic. And my mouth was on the floor," Gallik said. "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."

She said she feels the pastor's message represents a lack of understanding. Gallik doesn't want others to see those in the autism community in the way he described.

"He (Miles) is a beautiful boy with a spirit, a healthy, happy spirit. He doesn't even look at autism as something bad. He's happy," Gallik said. "To think that I send my child somewhere where they use such hateful language, that just breaks my heart as a mom."

She described the activities that were planned for the week.

"We were supposed to have 'wear blue' for World Autism Day. We were going do tie dye for celebrate neurodiversity, all fun things that just would have had kids learning a little bit more about autism and how to speak and act with their friends who have it," Gallik said. "Miles has started saying he doesn't belong in his class, and I just tell him that God made him perfectly. 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."

Gallik added that the staff at the school has been wonderful during the five years their family has been attending there.

Scripps News West Palm Beach has also confirmed a teacher's aide was fired this week after she said she posted the pastor's email on social media. She said the reason she was given was a "hostile work history."

Scripps News West Palm Beach contacted Baker to speak with him further about the message in his email.

He was not able to meet with us in person but provided the response below:

"We have recently been going through our school calendar and canceling and reframing activities and events to align with our Christian Worldview. Christmas and Easter activities have also been significantly revised to align with scriptural messages of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We also determined last year no longer to engage in a week of “Autism Awareness,” which was separate from and in addition to the educational programs available at the school for students with unique educational needs. Despite the administrative decision, some teachers decided to promote and run with the initiative this year, even after it was canceled.

My email recently (attached) clarified for our community that the teachings of Christ are more than sufficient for ministering to all our precious children and that there were moral aspects of this initiative that were diametrically opposed to the teachings of Christ.

Trinity Christian Academy welcomes all the children whose guardians seek a Biblically-centered, academically excellent primary and secondary education. We support individualized education plans for children with unique needs at the school, and we have on staff at the school and our church caring believers in Jesus with the requisite licensure, training and expertise in assisting children with special needs. The Bible says in Ephesians 5 that we minister to others according to their needs, and we obey the Word of the Lord to do so, always keeping Christ at the head and center of our education programs.

The support in the school community for my emailed message has been overwhelmingly positive, though there appears to be some vocal offense taken, based on a misunderstanding of that message. Our message is simply that Jesus Christ is sufficient for all areas of life, most foundationally, for our identity as individuals created in the image of Almighty God, and we are happy and blessed to take a stand to speak that Truth.


Matt Baker"

This story was originally published by Stephanie Susskind at Scripps News West Palm Beach.

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