After the Senate ratification of the United Nations Disabilities Treaty failed, media coverage of the failure to pass a two thirds Senate majority cited the homeschool lobby as a major factor.
Foreign Policy: Homeschoolers help torpedo disability rights treaty in Senate
International observers may be a little confused about why the U.S. Senate just rejected a treaty that has been ratified by 125 countries and is substantially based on U.S. law. They also might be forgiven for wondering what, exactly, this has to do with homechooling. In addition to groups like the Heritage Foundation — which opposes nearly any U.N. treaty on sovereignty grounds — and anti-abortion politicians like Rick Santorum who argue, inaccurately, that the law could lead to abortion being mandated for disabled children, the politically powerful, but usually under-the-radar U.S. homeschooling movement has been one of the most pivotal lobbies working against U.S. Senate ratification of the treaty.
Conservative News – Homeschoolers lobby, UN disabilities treaty fails
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ostensibly would have expanded access and opportunity for the disabled. But opponents, particularly those in homeschooling and faith-based organizations, argued that it redefined parental rights more narrowly while impinging on U.S. sovereignty.
In a floor speech Tuesday morning, Democratic Sen. Christopher Coons (Del.) acknowledged his office had been barraged with calls from homeschooled families in his district urging him to vote against the treaty, although he dismissed the calls as stemming from scare tactics and said he still planned a “yes” vote.
The treaty, backed by President Obama and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.), fell five votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for confirmation as dozens of Senate Republicans objected that it would create new abortion rights and impede the ability of people to homeschool disabled children.
Lee told Senators on Tuesday that the treaty “threatens the right of parents to raise their children with the constant looming threat of state interference.”
“We all want to support the best interest of the the child, every child,” Lee said in a speech on the Senate floor. “But I and many of my constituents, including those who home school their children or send their children to private or religious schools, have justifiable doubts that a foreign U.N. body, a committee operating out of Geneva, Switzerland should decide what is in the best interest of the child at home with his or her parents in Utah or in any other state in our great union.”
The Washington Post– Senate rejects treaty to protect disabled around the world
He [Santorum] and other conservatives argued that the treaty could relinquish U.S. sovereignty to a U.N. committee charged with overseeing a ban on discrimination and determining how the disabled, including children, should be treated. They particularly worried that the committee could violate the rights of parents who choose to home school their disabled children.
The Daily Caller – A Bad Disabled Rights Treaty
The convention consists of a preamble and 50 (!) articles. Under Article 4 (1)(b), ratifying states pledge to “take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination against persons with disabilities,” and under 4 (1)(d), to “refrain from engaging in any act or practice that is inconsistent” with the convention. Who gets to define whether an existing law, regulation, custom, or practice “constitute[s] discrimination against” the deaf, blind, epileptic, diabetic, or paraplegic? Or — to name a few of the other groups currently deemed disabled — persons afflicted with psychosis, cancer, emotional dysfunction, narcolepsy, learning disability, past alcohol or drug abuse if in rehab, or serious contagious disease? Your guess is as good as the Post editorialists’, except that they seem to have spent no time guessing or so much as thinking about the matter.
Will states and localities have to change their laws, or just the federal government? Glad you asked: Article 4, Section 5 says “The provisions of the present Convention shall extend to all parts of federal states without any limitations or exceptions.”
Libertarians, along with all those concerned with the autonomy of the institutions of private civil life, please note: under Article 4, section 1, part (e), states must “take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability by any person, organization or private enterprise.” (Yes, “any.”) The employment provisions of the current federal ADA apply to employers with more than 15 employees, but Article 27 (1)(a) would seem to prescribe doing away with any such threshold; it requires states to “Prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability with regard to all matters concerning all forms of employment.”