King's College was criticised for asking a child to leave a Father's Day service held in the ChapelLouis Ashworth

King’s College has drawn sharp criticism after an autistic child was asked to leave a Father’s Day service at the chapel.

In an online post, Dr Paul Rimmer, the boy’s father and a research fellow in the department of Earth Sciences, said that, during Sunday’s service, his family were asked to leave as a result of noise being made by his son, Tristan.

“Tristan is nine years old”, he wrote, “and is a clever and joyful child, who loves church buildings, services and choral music. He is also non-verbal, and expresses his excitement by calling out and laughing. His expressions are often loud and uncontainable. It is part of who he is, so there is no realistic way for him to be quiet.”

While the service was still ongoing, he said, an usher asked the family to leave the chapel, as “Tristan’s expressions were apparently interfering with the enjoyment of some of the other visitors.” The request was made on what he described as the “directive” of Reverend Dr Stephen Cherry, Dean of King’s College and the person to whom Dr Rimmer’s open letter was addressed.

“My son might not be able to talk”, he continued, “but he knows perfectly well what is going on around him. This is not the first time my family has been asked to leave a church on account of his being “too disruptive for other worshippers… He isn’t even ten years old and he knows that he is unwelcome.”

In an open reply to Dr Rimmer, Dr Cherry described himself as “devastated” upon hearing of the incident. “Every week we welcome thousands of people to services in King’s Chapel and we do our best to meet all their various needs and expectations. Sometimes we fail and I realise that we especially failed you and Tristan on Sunday afternoon. I apologise for that most sincerely.”


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He also noted that he himself had not given any instruction that Tristan should be asked to leave, but added that “as Dean I do take responsibility for the whole life of the Chapel and in that regard I express my unreserved apology and intention that we will do better in the future.”

Dr Cherry also extended an invitation of a meeting to Dr Rimmer, in order to discuss how better to “support and help the staff who are responsible for the welcome that we give those who come to share our services with us.”

Revd Dr Cherry and Dr Rimmer have since met and had what the latter described as “a good conversation”, in an online update. “My family was invited back to the church in the coming weeks,'' he wrote, “and Stephen and I will continue our conversation about how King’s College Chapel can be a more welcoming place for everyone.”  

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