Land: Senate needs to reject disabilities treaty

Baptist Press
Posted: Dec 03, 2012 4:52 PM
WASHINGTON (BP) -- Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land has urged defeat of a controversial treaty the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on Tuesday (Dec. 4).

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission's president called for Southern Baptists and others to ask their senators to vote against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD). Land and other critics have charged the treaty could undermine parental authority, the right to life and American sovereignty.

"This treaty is beyond need of repair," Land said in a Monday (Dec. 3) email alert. "It's a lame-duck issue that should be killed."

While the treaty sounds innocent, he said, it actually is a "Trojan horse that would usurp U.S. sovereignty and parental rights by putting the U.S. under the control of a panel of U.N. 'experts' on matters relating to the disabled. What's more, the treaty could potentially lead to an expansion of abortion services" as a result of some of its language.

The treaty appears to have a healthy majority in its support in what is known as a "lame-duck" session, which describes the legislative business between the election and a new Congress. It requires a two-thirds majority for ratification, however.

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), the organization leading opposition to the CRPD, expressed hope the Senate would fall short of the super-majority needed, but Land and HSLDA reported that senators who have not committed to its approval are under strong pressure to vote for ratification.

In a recent letter endorsed by Land and 39 other pro-family and conservative leaders, HSLDA cited the following among its concerns:

-- An article in the treaty making the "best interests of the child" a "primary consideration" could usurp the "traditional fundamental right of parents to direct the education and upbringing" of a special needs child.

-- A 1989 New Zealand law that is considered to comply with the CRPD permits the secretary of Education to require a disabled child to attend a government-operated school if he thinks it best for the student, implying the same thing could happen in the United States.

-- The U.S. could surrender its sovereignty to a committee -- the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities -- established by the treaty.

The treaty's inclusion of the term "reproductive health" -- sometimes a euphemism for "abortion rights" -- has drawn concern as well. An amendment in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that sought to make clear "reproductive health" does not include abortion failed.

While the treaty's foes acknowledge the need to expand protections for the disabled in some countries, they say the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) already provides such safeguards in this country.

President Obama signed the CRPD in 2009, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved it in a 13-6 vote in July of this year. Three Republicans joined the 10 Democrats on the panel in supporting the treaty.

Sen. John Kerry, D.-Mass., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, denied the treaty would have the potential effects forecast by its foes. On the day the committee passed the convention, Kerry said the treaty would not usurp American law and would not change the law on abortion.

Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook ( ) and in your email (

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