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Feb. 28, 2001 PROBE

February 28, 2001

QUESTION: My son, age 24, suffers from bipolar disorder as well as attention deficit disorder and learning disabilities. Recently we have been going to the Central Baptist Church in El Centro. I thought it was helping him a lot.

Everything was going fine until a 17-year-old boy started picking on my son. My son responded verbally. Somebody called the police, who picked him up on a 5150.

The police kept him overnight until it was determined he was neither a danger to himself nor others. He was released the next morning.

We had to go to court today. The church was represented by an attorney, the pastor and 17 church members in an effort to get a restraining order against my son. He and I were alone against this mob.

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We were not surprised. Since he was a little boy it's been him and me against the world.

The judge made the restraining order permanent. My son cannot walk within 100 yards of the church. I think this violates my son's constitutional rights. The U.S. Constitution guarantees his right to practice his religion! — Devastated Mom, El Centro

We are surprised. We thought the mission of the church was to get people, including the "afflicted," into church. Now here's a church going to court to keep a young disabled man out of church.

Pastor Jim Mersereau said the incident began when he called your son into his office to talk to him about his increasingly bizarre behavior. He had three other men with him as "witnesses," he said.

In that meeting, the Rev. Mersereau says, your son threatened to get a gun, kill himself and take some others with him.

"He has a history of mental illness. I felt I had to do something to protect the members of my church," Mersereau said.

"We wanted to get help for him," he said.

If you go to another church, don't tell the pastor your son suffers from mental illness. There is a prejudice against the mentally ill.

Your son won't miss people eyeing him suspiciously. The belief that the mentally ill are dangerous can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

QUESTION: Who would want to read about Old Highway 80? — Been There, Holtville

Anybody who likes to return to the days when a trip to San Diego meant a stop at the Wisteria Candy Cottage would like to read about the old highway. Now it means a stop at the Alpine bakery to load up on pastries or anybody who gets a shock of recognition when they speed by Miller's Garage just before starting the climb up the grade.

People stopped at Miller's to get a "cold drink," check the water in the car and fill up with gas. Before Interstate 8, a trip "over the hill" was a serious journey.

QUESTION: Where is the Texas A&M University? I thought it was in Austin but my friend thinks Houston. Do you know? — Curious, Holtville

Texas A&M is located at College Station, a community "deep in the heart of Texas." If you set up a triangle with angles at Houston, Austin and San Antonio, the university would be in the middle.

In Austin you will find the University of Texas.

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