Evangelicals vs. Persons With Disabilities: The real dangers of fighting against imaginary monsters

President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law in 1990, and he remains deservedly proud of having done so.

That American law came to be seen internationally as a model for other countries, and Bush’s son, President George W. Bush, helped to negotiate a treaty formally encouraging other nations to adopt for themselves the standards and reforms that Americans enshrined in the ADA.

Jesus isn’t fooled by this crafty ruse. He knows this is just a ploy to promote legal abortion and the Antichrist’s one-world government.

President Barack Obama signed the treaty — the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities — in 2009. The treaty has already been ratified by 126 countries. And, finally this week, the U.S. Senate voted on its ratification.

The treaty had the support of organizations that represent the disabled, veterans and business. It had the support of every living president from either party, and was endorsed by former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, who sat in a wheelchair in the Capitol this week to rally his party and his former colleagues in support of the treaty.

And then the Senate voted against the Rights of Persons With Disabilities.

Treaties must be ratified with a two-thirds majority in the Senate, but 38 Republican senators voted against ratifying this convention.

Because of abortion and because of the Antichrist.

Did this treaty have anything at all to do with abortion or the Antichrist? No. Nothing at all to do with either of those, but American evangelicals aren’t going to let a little thing like reality get in the way of some oh-so-enjoyable self-righteous masturbation.

So evangelical Christians led the fight against this treaty. They lobbied against it, helped prevent its ratification, and then celebrated their triumph against abortion and the Antichrist even though in reality it was actually a “triumph” against the rights of persons with disabilities all over the world.

Tim Fernholz tries to explain the inexplicable in a report titled, “Why the US just rejected a treaty based on its own laws“:

Here’s a lesson in America’s weird political institutions: How Christian conservatives led the Republican party to reject a treaty that endorsed existing American law.

The US Senate voted today on ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People 61-38, but the majority fell short of the 66 votes needed for ratification. The 38 votes against came from Republican senators, most of whom signed a letter promising not to support the bill. The letter was organized by Senator Mike Lee of Utah, who said the treaty threatened US sovereignty and could force the parents of disabled children to send them to public schools. It drew the support of home-schoolers who also fretted that the treaty was, among other things, a sly way to force America to adopt laws enshrining “abortion rights, homosexual rights, and demands the complete disarmament of all people.”

… The UN treaty is based on the Americans with Disabilities Act, enacted 22 years ago, and if it were ratified, no US laws would have to change. It was negotiated by the previous Republican president, George W. Bush, and is supported by prominent conservatives like Senator John McCain and former Senate majority leader Bob Dole (both of whom, thanks to war wounds, are Americans with disabilities). The US Chamber of Commerce supported the treaty, since it would help level the international playing field for American companies who already comply with the act, and potentially open foreign markets to US disabilities technology.

That’s a symbolic slap in the face to the 19 million Americans with disabilities, and an insult to all who love them.

The Republican senators’ weird rejection of this treaty won’t have much tangible effect on anyone here in the U.S., since the ADA is already the law of the land here. But this refusal to support the rights of the disabled internationally will tangibly harm people in other countries where such reforms and legal protections remain a distant dream.

This vote also harms America’s leadership, influence and reputation in the world. It makes America look ignorant, petty and spiteful. It makes us look that way because 38 Republican senators caused America to be ignorant, petty and spiteful.

And this ugly, harmful stupidity is all based on fantasy — based on nothing more than evangelicals’ preoccupation with pretending that they’re waging a heroic battle against Satanic baby-killer abortionists and against the one-world government of the Antichrist.

These monsters do not exist. But evangelicals’ fantasy role-playing battles against their favorite imaginary monsters has, once again, led them to behave monstrously.

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  • Blaine

    This is just monstrous. How could one oppose such a treaty? Especially when it’s already based on our *own* domestic law? As if I needed any more evidence that Evangelicals had gone off the deep end into a territory far removed from Christ’ message…

    And about this architecture thing. I’ve seen no study putting ADA compliance in new construction at over 1% of the overall cost of the project. ADA compliance for public facilities has a “readily achievable” doctrine if they need to do renovations. If a renovation costs too much or cannot be achieved in any realistic sense, then the business does not have to undergo said renovation. But most of the time, these little tweaks to ensure ADA compliance are of minimal to no cost. One study by the Dept. of Labor showed the average cost of an accommodation was around 500$. That’s it. And small businesses who have to remove barriers and such can claim up to $5,000 via the Disabled Access Credit to defray the costs of those renovations. As well, businesses of any size can go to Section 190 of the IRS tax code to claim up to $15,000 to offset renovations such as removing barriers. So renovation costs can be easily recouped. 

  • B

     “…one day we may need to change our laws (for reasons that may not be
    apparent to us at the moment) and having a treaty limit our options may
    not be the best idea.”

    So the idea: This treaty is a bad idea because someday we might want to decide not to treat the disabled as people with the same human rights as everyone else — and thus people who should be able to use public buildings, libraries, grocery stores, schools, etc. like everyone else.  Signing the treaty could in theory limit that (which it can’t since as noted, there’s no enforcement provision, but breaking the treaty might make us look bad). 

    Seems to me that’s a feature, not a bug. 

  • Baby_Raptor

    The world inside his head, where everyone not Real True Christian is a baby killer out to push homogay sex and destroy Christianity. 


    I’m my reading, I’ve seen multiple times architects hindered in being
    able to build affordable buildings by the requirements of the American’s
    with Disabilities Act.

    The thought occurs that if you find it onerous to be required that your building actually be usable by the human beings who are going to be inside of it, perhaps the field you want to go into is not actually architecture. Perhaps you actually want to enter one of the many other fine fields that involve building large things, like sculpture, civil engineering, or making parade balloons.

  • Also? Seriously, folks, the USA is not going to go broke any time soon. The wealthiest country in the world can afford a few wheelchair ramps and even make them esthetically pleasing without going into fits of abject horror at the thought that a wheelchair ramp will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

  • The thought occurs that if you find it onerous to be required that your building actually be usable by the human beings who are going to be inside of it, perhaps the field you want to go into is not actually architecture.

    Aha! It’s the Fountainhead all over again. Or Paradise Towers.

    I’m convinced the only reason Ayn Rand’s obvious self-insert Roark was an architect was because you can’t flounce and destroy your novel. At least you couldn’t then; I’ve had this fanfic idea floating around where Roark is a famous writer who does an epic flounce where he releases a virus to destroy every electronic copy of his (pick one: sadly adulterated/rescued from crappitude by judicial editing) magnum opus.

  • ohiolibrarian

     Maybe it relates to this Texas law signed by GW Bush when he was governor: Note this summary comes from Texas Right to Life. It reads (in part):

    Prior to passage of the Texas Advanced Directives Act in 1999, an
    article appeared in the August 1996 edition of the authoritative Journal
    of the American Medical Association that outlined legal procedures for
    hospitals and medical personnel to follow in order to withdraw patient
    treatment and to unplug the machines that were preserving patients’
    lives, thereby causing their deaths.  These actions included the denial
    of food and water.  Such procedures could be done for a variety of
    reasons, including patients’ continued existence constituted a financial
    burden to the institution.

    my bold

    This law was used for a baby named Sunny (I think) shortly after the Terri Schiavo insanity. The hospital pulled the plug over her mother’s objections. The mother was poor and the baby was terminal, so I don’t think the hospital was necessarily wrong, but the contrast was striking. Nary a peep from the pro-life crowd.

  • Chris

    If you want to see whether your Senator is one of the ones who should be ashamed, look here:

    One of my two (who, thankfully, is retiring next month) voted Nay.  I’ve sent him a message with my opinion (in printable terms) of his vote.

  • What’s just stunning to me is how the Senators that voted against this treaty buy into the kind of notions people like Tim LaHaye have about the United Nations to the point that they wrongly attribute erosion of national sovereignty to the UN rather than to things like TRIPS, the WTO amd what-have-you.

  • Veylon

    Argh! What is this crazy debate?

    Look, Mr. Peterson, if we ever get to the point where we absolutely NEED, for whatever reason, to do something and there’s an international treaty in the way, we’ll just ignore it. Some politician will say, “an international treaty isn’t a suicide pact” or something and it’ll be done. Other countries have done it before, I’m sure we’ve done it before, it’s not the end of the world. If the U.N. comes to arrest us, we’ll just call that guy in Arizona or New Mexico or wherever to send his extra police to scare them off.

  • ohiolibrarian

     Mr. Peterson also doesn’t seem to understand the difference between law (ADA) and regulations used to implement the law. Specific requirements are generally in the regulations, not the law. Regulations can change if they “don’t make sense” given the law’s intent. Laws can be changed as well.

    I have also heard architects bellyache when their designs won’t work IRL. That is not the same as having a requirement that doesn’t “make sense”.

  • Albanaeon

     So we must sacrifice the disabled to the imaginary deficit monster?  Charming…

  • As someone who is currently both disabled and poor, I must admit that when I read your words “Also, our wealth currently affords us with the option to accommodate the disabled, but…”, I was tempted to reply to you in a rather rude and unpleasant way.  After reading your later comments, I’m glad I didn’t react that way.  I still do feel the need to point out two things, hopefully without being too unpleasant.

    First:  A large percentage of the poor are also disabled or about to become so.  In a country where the ability to get proper health care depends on the money to pay for it, poverty naturally leads to disability.  Disability is also a leading cause of poverty.  So, here in the real world, if you try to help people living in poverty without helping people living with disabilities, you end up not helping poor people after all.  You can’t treat the poor and the disabled as separate groups and get good results.  Real life just doesn’t work that way.

    Second:  You seem to be someone who has thought a great deal about apocalyptic scenarios.  Many of us commenting here at Slacktivist were attracted to the blog by Fred Clark’s famous dissection of the Left Behind books, and many people here grew up believing that the End Times were coming any minute now and we had to be prepared, so we can understand the sense of urgency.  Being prepared for disaster is a good thing, of course.  You never know when earthquake, fire, flood, war, plague, and all manner of other disasters might hit, so you should probably keep at least a week’s worth of food and water around if you can.  Even the US Centers for Disease Control encourages people to prepare for zombies, just in case!

    But there is such a thing as trying too hard to be prepared for coming tribulation.  If you’re a Christian, remember that Jesus told us to pray for our daily bread for this day, not for enough resources to keep the zombie hordes at bay for the next seven generations.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Do good today, rather than putting your goods in a storehouse where moth and rust destroy.  And if you feel yourself start to panic as you think about the future, remember that if we get to the point where our civilization is collapsing, plague is spreading, and famine is leaving us all begging for a crust of bread, nobody is going to care that our country once signed a treaty saying we needed to install a few more wheelchair ramps.

  • P J Evans

    Historic buildings are a special case.

  • P J Evans

    And our ancestors may not even use electricity.

    our ancestors mostly didn’t; electricity is pretty recent. Whether our descendants will have electricity is another problem. if we start now, we might be able to really do something about it.

  • P J Evans

     I lived on place where the library had space for an elevator built in as part of its design. The problem they had was a politician who didn’t think the library should exist; he’d put money into the budget for the elevator just so he could cut it out again. The ADA meant that it actually had to be put in, finally, and everyone who couldn’t use the stairs (or had too big a load to use the stairs) was really happy.

  • Possibly this could refer to conditions like trisomy 13 or trisomy 18 which have really low survival rates.

    I’ve worked with children with extraordinary severe chronic conditions, where they spend their entire lives in pain, unable to move on their own, and unable to communicate.  I only did it for four months, but it was by far the hardest job I ever did, including substitute teaching for kindergarten and junior high. I highly question anyone speaking on authority about the ethics of those types of diseases who hasn’t worked with children with them directly.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    The Debt Monster really likes sacrifices.  And chocolate.

    But especially sacrifices.  

  • Lori


    Also, our wealth currently affords us with the option
    to accommodate the disabled, but as with the tale of the prodigal son we
    as a nation have been spending our inheritance freely and with little
    regard to our long term future. 

    Did you seriously reference the Bible in an attempt to justify saying that it’s just too expensive to “accommodate the disabled”? While apparently posting under your own name? Really?

    You may want to rethink that because I’m pretty sure “Oh well, sucks to be you” is not the message of the New Testament.

  • Paul Durant

    Jesus Herbert Walker Christ could you stop with the self-righteous straw manning for two fucking seconds? 

  • Dan Audy

    rescued from crappitude by judicial editing

    I now have a vision of Justice Kagan returning a supreme court brief covered with red ink crossing things out and notes with a comment to “Submit again with adequate legal reasoning”.

  • Dan Audy

    rescued from crappitude by judicial editing

    I now have a vision of Justice Kagan returning a Supreme Court brief covered with red ink crossing things out and notes with a comment to “Submit again with adequate legal reasoning”.

  • Matri

    Nary a peep from the pro-life crowd.

    That’s cause the baby has already popped out of her ladyparts but is still too young to vote for them.

    As far as the pro-life crowd is concerned, neither of them exist anymore.

  • guest

    I used to teach architecture; at one end of term party I arranged to show the Fountainhead movie on the wall of the pub for MST3King.  A lot of stuff got thrown at that wall that night….  I’d like to have made watching that movie a regular part of the class, but for some reason never did make it a permanent institution.

  • I remember one fellow telling me that he and the other people who worked for a place that sold ovens, refrigerators and the like called the ADA “The Appliance Deliverymen’s Act” because of how much easier it made their jobs.  Among other thing, it apparently cut down on work-related injuries in their field.  (Do not have actual statistics on that.)

    So unplanned benefit to able-bodied people as well!

  • But…I have the “Michael Pullmann Kitten-Punching Society” T-Shirts all ready to go!

  • EllieMurasaki

    There is a subtle but relevant difference between ‘straw man’ and ‘reductio ad absurdum’.

  • Not surprised! Those gently slanted paths for people who have limited mobility are an absolute boon for moving things around. :D

  • As spake by Paul Durant:

    Jesus Herbert Walker Christ could you stop with the self-righteous straw manning for two fucking seconds?




  • Paul Durant

    Just because you didn’t read something doesn’t mean it’s a safe assumption that every bad thing must be true about it.

    Every single thing I said there was supported, logical, and I stand by all of it. It’s a disgrace that your group frenzy of self-righteous public masturbation has led you to believe that I must have been a bad terrible stupid person because I disagreed with you about things you never actually read or investigated. Congratulations, you’re every single thing you hate.

  • Lori

    Every single thing I said there was supported, logical, and I stand by all of it.

    I have no doubt that the last one is true. The 2nd one is sort of true for some extremely wrong-headed values of the word “logical”. The first is not true in any reasonable sense. You do realize that people can see what you wrote, don’t you?

    And if we’re such self-righteous public masturbators why are you here? What do you hope to accomplish?

  • Tapetum

     And sometimes – indeed frequently, given the unemployment rates among the disabled, and the expenses involved – the disabled are the poor.

    Try acting as an aide for someone in a wheelchair for a while. When you can’t belong to a student group because it meets upstairs in a building with no elevator, can’t ride a bus because there’s no lift or kneeler, can’t use a restaurant because they stuck the “accessible” restroom behind a table full of people, can’t hold a job because the accessible public transit is so unreliable you end up getting fired every time you manage to get one, can’t complain about this at a town meeting, because the snow plows don’t clear the curb cuts and you can’t even get onto the block the right building is on- when all of these things and often worse or more are true, then what cost not allowing for accessibility.

    I’ve had a dear friend for more than twenty years who uses an electric wheelchair. In the time I’ve known her, she’s been stranded alone at night by unreliable public transit for an hour or more at least two or three times a year. She’s been forced to drive her chair on busy roads for lack of accessible sidewalks. And all of the things listed in the previous paragraph have happened – nearly routinely. She is financially well off and in a fairly liberal state that rates well in access. Yet I fully expect that one of these days, she is going to be killed directly by a lack of access.

    Try changing your thinking. You are sitting disabled. So am I. At great expense, the government, restaurants, public schools, buses, airplanes, and practically everything and every place else in life provides chairs for us to sit in. Think how much money we could save if we just didn’t have to accommodate this weird and unreasonable need we have to sit places. A movie theatre would save thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars if they didn’t have to provide all those seats. How many millions and billions would we save as a nation if we stopped paying for all that expensive, unnecessary furniture? Can we really afford to keep putting chairs everywhere?

    Sound silly? That’s because you’re used to access. To having everything, pretty much everywhere set up to be convenient for you. You and I can walk up a ramp, or use an elevator. She cannot use stairs. At all.

    An accessible building can be used by the able bodied. The reverse is not true.

  • reynard61

    “Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and convince John Birch to start a bowling team instead.”

    First of all, John Birch had nothing to do with starting the John Birch Society. Second; even if he *had* started it as a bowling team, they’d probably *still* be the bat-shit, raving paranoids that they are today — just with better bowling scores.

  • Ross Thompson

    “The US may sink into the sea, forcing us to replace roads (yes, all of them) with canals”?

  • Ross Thompson

    The hospital pulled the plug over her mother’s objections. The mother was poor and the baby was terminal, so I don’t think the hospital was necessarily wrong

    You would object to rich parents having their non-viable children treated in the same way?

  • Andrea

    Thanks for the link, will bear this in mind.

    Oh Dick Lugar, I kind of love you some days, and I am so sorry you got booted in the primary by Mourdock. Sometimes you were rational and non-obstructive and it was awesome. Best of luck in future endeavors.

  • Andrea

    (To be fair, Coats hasn’t *always* made bad decisions and even did some good bipartisan work back in the ’90s. Alas, this is the best I can say.)

  • Carstonio

     The talk about the US empire doesn’t take into account how rightists interpret that word.

    Empires in recent centuries were about colonizing distant lands and exploiting the inhabitants and resources. The changes in those empires have generally been about the colonies regaining their independence and the international power imbalance shifting somewhat.

    Because rightists tend to be authoritarian and absolutist, they seem to assume that countries can either colonize or be colonized. Their narrative is largely a straw-man version of Roman history, where that empire fell to barbarians because it reveled in decadence instead of accepting Christianity. Never mind that Roman persecution of Christians wasn’t as great or long-lasting as later Christians would claim, and never mind that Christianity was the empire’s official religion for some time before Rome fell.

    These folks want to believe that abortion and homosexuality being legal and mandatory school prayer being illegal are either symptoms or causes of US moral decline, with the nation doomed to becoming a vassal state of China and/or Mexico. The irony is that their Just World Fallacy promotion of oligarchy, essentially sacrificing the middle class, would probably do far more to shrink US power over time.

  • Danivon

    Serious question, for Mr Peterson, or someone else who can answer it:

    did any of the Senators voting against ratification actually also put forward the argument that tha ADA should be repealed, or could be in the future? Or is this just rationalisation.

  • nakedanthropologist

    Wow. Well, as one of those uppity people with a life-long disability since childhood, God knows my only concern is how a building looks. Here’s a thought: try harder to integrate accessibility into design. There are plenty of poor people with disabilities, who need affordable and accessible housing. One of my best friends is an architect, and as such, I know that any building style can be made accessible – it may take some creativity and extra planning; the style might not be an exact mimicry of a historical building – but so what? Human equality and understanding is more important than how a building looks! Well, at least it is for some people.

  • Lori


    You would object to rich parents having their non-viable children treated in the same way?   

    Personally, not really.

    On one hand the parents of a child have to have broad liberty to decide what’s best for the child. That’s parenthood. On the other hand, sometimes parents are going to be totally unrealistic about their child’s situation. I think there will be times when medical professionals have to say that they will provide palliative care, but they will not provide hugely expensive, possibly painful treatment in cases where it will not benefit the patient.

  • JustoneK

    Why am I always amazed at people who think they understand logic and clearly don’t?

  • Paul Durant

    I realize people can see what I wrote. I also realize most of them, like you, don’t actually read it. The instant they recognize that it disagrees with something they profess belief in and thus they can get a self-righteous high from condemning it, they skim it for a few key phrases and fill in their own mental construct of what a Bad Wrong Stupid Person would say. This is how I can be accused of making a “fact-free” rant and told that the things I said were unsupported when I was the person citing facts and studies and was doing so copiously. 

    Here’s what’s going to happen next. I’m going to say “Point out something that is actually illogical and unfounded, in a way that shows you actually read the words.” You will either A: punt, and refuse to answer by sneering the question off as beneath you or something that I, as a Bad Wrong Stupid Person, am obviously unworthy of seeing a response for. Or B: You’ll make a response to something I didn’t say, that has maybe a phrase i common with something I did say, because you didn’t actually read it. If you choose B, I will point out (in an incredibly condescending manner) how you just showed that, once again, you didn’t read what you are claiming you understand well enough to dismiss out of hand, what the actual thing I said was, and how it was supported. At which point, you will punt, and refuse to respond by sneering off the rebuttal as either beneath you or something that I, as a Bad Wrong Stupid Person, am obviously unworthy of seeing a response for.

  • AnonymousSam

    Who says he gives a rat’s ass now? Those other people, well, they’re Those Other People. And some of them are probably black!

  •  No, Paul. Believe it or not, it is, and I realize you will be shocked, shocked to hear this, entirely possible to disagree with you because we have read the stupid things you wrote. It is possible for an honest, thoughtful person to honestly think about the things you say and come up with “No, that’s absolute rubbish.”

    However, the fact that you make these passive-aggrssive digs, and ignore the many times that people have indeed “pointed out something that is actualy ilogical and unfounded in a way that shows you actually read the words”, you simply ignore it and go back to your pitty party about how everyone would see that you were right if only we weren’t so full of ourselves and unwilling to listen does indeed demonstrtate that you are a Bad Wrong Stupid Person.

  • AnonymousSam

    Doctors wanting to save money by condemning people to death? Does Fischer work for a health insurance company? This would make so much more sense if he were projecting.

  • smrnda

    Yes, building styles that were just fine for a long time are no longer okay because of ADA, just the same way that separate drinking fountains for non-whites was ‘okay’ for a long time. Once you decide categories of human beings have rights, you’re going to have to make some changes.

    I also don’t buy the cost issue. People who rent property want massive profits, and are going to argue that anything is an imposition on their bottom line. The other issue is that you already pointed out that the US has the money, it’s all just in rich people’s offshore accounts. The issue with lack of funding isn’t that we lack thrift, but that many people are dodging taxes.

  • smrnda

     True, if anything, the standard of living in the UK is probably better than it was during their age of empire. Also, our empire is mostly just a huge drain on resources and benefits nobody but defense contractors.

  • Lori

    What Ross said.

    You keep insisting that we obviously didn’t read what you posted even though we responded to it at the time. You apparently simply can’t wrap your head around the clear proof that people can read and understand what you write and then disagree with it and you. We can and we did. You’re “facts” weren’t actual facts and finding a study that backs up your position doesn’t mean that you win the argument. The study must at a minimum have been well designed and conducted, its results must be replicated by other studies, the conclusions drawn must be logical and not go beyond what the study is able to support and must actually say what you’re claiming they say. Pretty much everything you posted failed on at least one of those parameters. No, I’m not going to go back and reread them to point out again what’s wrong with them  just because you refuse to grasp this.

    If you make a point and/or link to a study in the future and it’s on a topic that interests me and I have time I’ll take a look and respond to it and so will other people. Based on your behavior so far I predict that it will be crap and people will point out what’s wrong with it. You’ll then say that we obviously didn’t read it, even when we quote from it. And on and on and on.

    Let’s set all that aside for the moment and assume that your point, which is simultaneously self-pitying and self-aggrandizing, is actually true and we are simply unwilling to give a fair hearing to any ideas with which we don’t already agree. If we’re so closed why are you here, talking at us? Does it give you a self-righteous high? 

  • David Peterson

    Venice is extremely hard for people with disabilities to get around. You can either travel by boat or by foot. If you travel by foot there are foot bridges connecting all the islands. It wasn’t a matter of material constraints but of where the people chose to live (in a swamp on lots of little islands). …and it wasn’t a matter of cost (because they had a trade empire which brought them quite a bit of wealth). They built in a place and in a way that would if placed under US law would be illegal. It was a vague point…