Bertha mothers hopes for reversal of church restraining order

BERTHA, Minn. - Carol Race hopes to attend Mass at St. Joseph's Catholic Church here on Sunday if a restraining order barring her 13-year-old autistic son from church property is lifted.

BERTHA, Minn. - Carol Race hopes to attend Mass at St. Joseph's Catholic Church here on Sunday if a restraining order barring her 13-year-old autistic son from church property is lifted.

The restraining order is part of a dispute between the Race family and the church over whether Adam Race, who weighs about 225 pounds and stands more than 6 feet tall, poses a threat to members of the congregation because of behaviors resulting from his severe autism.

The disagreement is playing out on a very public stage, with church officials receiving media inquiries from around the world.

"I got a call from somebody in England this morning," parish spokeswoman Jane Marrin said Tuesday.

The dispute was a featured discussion Monday on the home page of, generating hundreds of comments from readers.


It was also featured on ABC's "Good Morning America" show Tuesday.

"It's ... like 'The Twilight Zone,' " a weary Carol Race said late Monday after dealing with media interviews for four days straight.

Race said she heard the story was translated for a Russian newspaper.

The pressure has prompted the seven-member family to take a reprieve from interviews and Race has asked people not to bother St. Joseph's parishioners about the situation, stating it's not fair to involve the people who attend the church.

The controversy began last summer when the parish priest, the Rev. Daniel Walz, visited the Races to talk about his concerns regarding Adam Race's behavior in church.

Things came to a head May 9, when Walz filed a restraining order effective until May 9, 2010.

"Adam's continued presence on church grounds not only endangers the parishioners, it is disruptive to the devout celebration of the Eucharist," Walz said in an affidavit filed in court.

The boy's behavior included urinating in church, "striking a child during Mass" and "bolting unexpectedly from church," Walz added.


"The parish members and I have been very patient and understanding. I have made repeated efforts through Catholic Education Ministries, Caritas Family Services and, most recently, sought to try to mediate the matter with the family to ask them to voluntarily not bring Adam to church, but it has been to no avail," Walz wrote in the affidavit.

In a statement, Walz said the restraining order was pursued after other options were exhausted.

Race said the only accommodation Walz offered the family was to have her son observe Mass through closed circuit television in the church basement.

She said the option was not acceptable because her son is afraid of television and her religious objections to closed circuit television.

Race said Catholic teaching calls it a sin not to attend Mass if one is physically able.

Race disagreed with Walz's description of her son as a potential danger to parishioners and the claim that her son "urinated" in church.

Race said her son has occasional incontinence issues, but he has never exposed himself.

She said her son is large, but not violent or prone to anger, and he has been welcome at Catholic churches in the area.


Race said her son behaved perfectly in church for two months prior to the order.

When the restraining order was issued, she chose to take her son to church anyway.

After Race took her son to Mass on Mother's Day in violation of the court order, the Bertha Police Department issued a citation.

She appeared in court on Monday.

Race said she planned Sunday to attend Mass again until Todd County Sheriff Pete Mikkelson visited with her and explained she would be arrested.

Race chose to go to another church.

"It's unfortunate for the church, it's unfortunate for the Race family. I hope there is some kind of resolution," Mikkelson said.

Race said she hopes the family is able to resolve the situation with the diocese and parish soon.


"I would love to work with Father Dan," she said.

In a news release issued by the parish, Walz said, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family in this difficult time and we ask the prayers of our brothers and sisters in this challenging situation as well."

Marrin, the parish spokeswoman, said the parish renewed its offer for mediation in a letter sent to the family on Monday.

"We are hoping that a resolution that is mutually acceptable and reasonable accommodations can be met for all parties. The parish is reaching out," she said.

Forum reporter Dave Olson contributed to this article.

Hacking works for the Wadena Pioneer Journal.

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