Does The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities void US sovereignty?

What are the ramifications of the controversial UN Treaty on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities and will it override US law?  Photo: The United Nations Flag Credit: AP Images

DALLAS, September 18, 2012 — At the end of July, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations approved a controversial UN treaty: The Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD), which has been fought by family rights groups and defenders of US sovereignty for months. What exactly are the concerns raised by the opponents of the UNCRPD? The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) summarizes them succinctly in a helpful list which breaks down the most disturbing elements of the treaty’s wording.

While one of their main concerns is the sovereignty issue raised in Article 4(1)(a), which demands that all American law on the subject be conformed to the standards of the UN, implied threats to parental rights are their biggest fear.  They explain on their website,

“Article 7(2) [which states that ‘in all actions concerning children with disabilities, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration’] 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.”

At the bottom of this heap of words lies a question hidden like a neon-orange hunter’s jersey walking around in a green field. Whose responsibility will it be to determine what is in the best interests of a disabled child? This is the question with the frightening answer that changes everything.

The HSLDA has also called attention to Article 4(1)(e), which demands that “every person, organization, or private enterprise” must eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability. “On its face,” warns the HSLDA, “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.”

There were nine total witnesses at the July hearing which was held by Sen. John Kerry. Only two people opposed to the treaty were permitted to testify. These were Steven Groves of the Heritage Foundation and Michael Farris of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.

Farris expressed his concern, calling the hearing a carefully-orchestrated attempt to get this treaty ratified without any serious consideration, adding,It appears some in the Senate are counting on citizens’ ignorance of the Constitution. [They are] trying to downplay the impact of this treaty by arguing that ‘a treaty is an empty promise with no actual substance.’ Wrong. The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution overrules State Laws if it is ratified.”

Judging by the extensive video footage of the hearing, Sen. Kerry did indeed imply that the treaty would not place legal restrictions on the US, stating, “since the treaty is not self-executing in the United States, it’s hard for me to understand, given the reservations and declarations and understandings, there would be a change needed.”  

However, Mr. Farris’ understanding of the matter appears to be the correct one, under this provision of the US Constitution:

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

It’s hard to see how that very lucid passage leaves any room for further debate regarding the binding nature of the UNCRPD, if ratified by the US Congress – even if it could be shown to make any ethical or logical sense to sign treaties that we don’t intend to abide by in the first place.

Following the Senate Committee Hearing and the subsequent ratification of the treaty by the Committee, there ensued a period of rest for the embattled partisans on both sides of the UNCRPD debate. This week, however, the issue reared its head again, with Tim Lambert of the Texas Homeschool Coalition sending out an alert warning that the convention is pushing for a September Senate vote on the treaty and urging defenders of liberty to not only contact their senators’ offices via phone but to visit them in person in order to stress the magnitude of the situation.


A history buff, self-taught artist, and enthusiastic autodidact, Bryana brings her always politically incorrect and usually passionate views about politics and the theory of government to her readers. In addition to writing for the TWTC, she also writes for The College Conservative and maintains the official High Tide Journal at www.thehightide.com. You can also find her on twitter at @_Bryana_Johnson and on facebook.


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Bryana Johnson

Passionate about liberty, and the theory of government, Bryana serves as the vice president of a local political club and reports on political happenings around the globe.
 
In addition to her political activities, Bryana has won prizes in multiple poetry contests and her first poetry collection, Having Decided To Stay, was released in 2012. She writes regularly about the good life, literature and the world’s great Lover over at www.bryanajohnson.com. You can follow her on twitter at @_Bryana_Johnson and on facebook. 

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