Pastor resigns from Stoutland School Board amidst backlash from autism comments during sermon
RICHLAND, Mo. (KY3) - On Wednesday, September 6, Beulah Church in Richland, Mo., held a live-streamed sermon hosted by Pastor Rick Morrow. In the sermon, Morrow made comments that caused a massive backlash in the Richland community and across the country.
In the sermon, he said, in part, “Well, either the devil has attacked [children with autism], he’s brought this infirmity upon them, he’s got them, or God doesn’t like them that much, and he made them that way, my God doesn’t make junk. Quit putting a Band-Aid on it and saying, ‘Oh, it’ll be okay. We just need to treat this or treat that.’ How about you just cast the demon out and then treat all the problems?”
The comments caused an uproar, and none more so for parents like Casey Cox and Erica Hennenberg. Their daughters, Romey and Memphis, love the tire swing outside, love arts and crafts, and are on the autism spectrum.
Morrow says while he understands the frustration, he’s upset that people didn’t understand the meaning behind the comments.
In defense of the comments, Morrow said
“By junk, I meant autism, that condition, the illness or the neurodivergence,” said Morrow. “All of us have issues; all of us have problems. All of us have conditions. All of us have sicknesses and diseases and illnesses. And I just refuse to blame God for those things. ”
He had said that autism is born from demonic influence, defending the statement by saying,
“Yes, either in or around on, somehow it’s affecting,” said Morrow. “And when I say a demon, you people want to, like I said, they want to get that Hollywood description of what a demon is this nasty, so ugly and, and that’s not the case, it’s just an evil presence. It’s just the presence of evil.”
What’s more is that in addition to being a pastor, Morrow was on the board of Stoutland schools until resigning from his position amidst the backlash.
KY3 reached out to Stoutland Schools. It responded with this statement:
“The District is aware that a member of the Board of Education, in a setting and capacity outside of his board member role, made comments that have been interpreted as derogatory toward individuals with certain disabilities. One member of the Board of Education does not speak for the Board of Education as a whole, nor the District itself. The District is steadfast in its compliance with both the requirements of and the spirit of non-discrimination laws and our own Board-adopted policies regarding the same. Our school district welcomes students of all backgrounds, regardless of ability, and provides educational opportunities and services to each and everyone with commitment and care. I can confirm that the District has received a letter of resignation from the Board member, which will be presented to the board as a whole at the next meeting.”
For parents like Cox and Hennenberg who are worried about an Autism diagnosis or for people who are interested in learning more about the condition, Cox founded a non-profit called Show-Me Romey, named after her daughter Romey. They say the main focus of the group is to educate people in all areas on what autism is and where it comes from
“We can’t have autism acceptance until we have autism awareness,” said Cox. “And autism awareness is education.”
Cox and Hennenberg say people who make blanket statements about autism don’t understand the condition or the families it impacts.
Autistic children, special needs children, they are different, but they are not less,” said Hennengerg. “They are different, not less.”
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