The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 13, 2006, and entered into force on May 3, 2008, after it received its 20th ratification. The Optional Protocol to the Convention went into force on the same day after it received its 10th ratification. The CRPD was signed by President Obama on July 30, 2009. Since it has been sent to the U.S. Senate for ratification by President Obama, the U.S. Senate could vote to ratify this treaty at any time.
CRPD calls for numerous protections for people with disabilities. Many of these protections are included in U.S. law as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, CRPD also includes numerous provisions drafted by the United Nations which would concern many U.S. citizens. Like the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), if ratified, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would become the supreme law of the land under the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause in Article VI, would trump state laws, and would be used as binding precedent by state and federal judges. Since it is a treaty, the U.S. Constitution requires that it must be ratified by two-thirds of the U.S. senators present at the time of the vote, or 67 senators if all 100 U.S. senators were present.
Here are 10 specific problems I see with the CRPD as written.
1. Any remaining state sovereignty on the issue of disability law will be entirely eliminated by the ratification of this treaty. The rule of international law is that the nation-state that ratifies the treaty has the obligation to ensure compliance. This gives Congress total authority to legislate on all matters regarding disability law—a power that is substantially limited today. Article 4(5) makes this explicit.
2. Article 4(1)(a) demands that all American law on this subject be conformed to the standards of the UN.
3. Article 4(1)(e) remands that “every person, organization, or private enterprise” must eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability. On its face, this means that every home owner would have to make their own home fully accessible to those with disabilities. If the UN wants to make exceptions, perhaps they could. But, on its face this is the meaning of the treaty.
4. Article 4(1)(e) also means that the legal standard for the number of handicapped spaces required for parking at your church will be established by the UN—not your local government or your church.
5. Article 4(2) requires the United States to use its maximum resources for compliance with these standards. The UN has interpreted similar provisions in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to criticize nations who spend too much on military issues and not enough on social programs. There is every reason to believe that the UN would interpret these provisions in a similar fashion. The UN believes that it has the power to determine the legitimacy and lawfulness of the budget of the United States to assess compliance with such treaties.
6. Article 6(2) is a backdoor method of requiring the United States to comply with the general provisions of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. This treaty enshrines abortion rights, homosexual rights, and demands the complete disarmament of all people.
7. Article 7(2) advances the identical standard for the control of children with disabilities as is contained in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This means that the government—acting under UN directives—gets to determine for all children with disabilities what the government thinks is best.
Additionally, under current American law, federal law requires public schools to offer special assistance to children with disabilities. However, no parent is required to accept such assistance. Under this section the government—and not the parent—would have the ultimate authority to determine if a child with special needs will be homeschooled, attend a private school, or be required to accept the program offered by the public school.
8. The United States, as a wealthy nation, would be obligated to fund disability programs in nations that could not afford their own programs under the dictates of Article 4(2). This is what “the framework of international cooperation” means.
9. Article 15’s call for a ban on “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” is the exact same language used in the UN CRC which has been authoritatively interpreted to ban any spanking by parents. It should be noted that Article 15 is not limited to persons with disabilities. It says “no one shall be subjected to … inhuman or degrading treatment.” This means that spanking will be banned entirely in the United States.
10. Article 25 on Education does not repeat the parental rights rules of earlier human rights treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. This is an important omission. Coupling this omission with the direct declaration of “the best interest of the child” standard in Article 7(2), this convention is nothing less than the complete eradication of parental rights for the education of children with disabilities.
Michael Farris is the Founder and Chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association
Editor’s Note – The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is scheduled to hold a hearing on the CRPD on July 12, 2012.