How the most famous white evangelical with a disability became the public face of the white evangelical campaign against the rights of persons with disabilities

How the most famous white evangelical with a disability became the public face of the white evangelical campaign against the rights of persons with disabilities January 20, 2014

The United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities is a diplomatic effort to encourage every nation to respect those rights in the same way the United States has ever since President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act back in 1990.

Since the U.S. law served as a model for the U.N. Convention, nothing in America would change if the convention were ratified by the U.S. U.S. ratification would, however, make a significant different for persons with disabilities in other countries, since America is a big, influential nation and its support for — or withholding of support from — this effort affects whether or not its regarded as a serious effort whose reforms should be implemented in meaningful ways. It also makes a significant difference as to how the U.S. itself is perceived in and by those other nations. Is the U.S. a we’ve-got-ours-screw-you nation? Or does its concern for human rights extend beyond its own borders? Does America follow its principles or is it hypocritical?

Yet the United States has not ratified this convention. The United States Senate voted not to do so.

Jon Eareckson Tada will be headed to the Academy Awards on behalf of the Christianist movement against the rights of persons with disabilities.

Why not? Well because of Nicolae Carpathia and Agenda 21 and the global conspiracy of the Illuminati and the international Jewish bankers, of course. Which is to say because of a vocal faction of white evangelicals who oppose this convention as part of their fantasy role-playing battle against imaginary monsters.

Leading this charge was a guy named Michael Farris, the founder/CEO/pope of something called the Home School Legal Defense Association. The HSDLA spends most of its time raising funds to fight against any legal oversight for right-wing Bartonian home-schoolers, defending parents’ religious freedom not to let their kids learn reading, writing and arithmetic, or anything like actual science and history. Oh, and defending the parental right to corporal punishment, of course.

Farris tag-teamed with former Sen. Rick Santorum to block ratification of the disabilities convention late in 2012, and they resumed their valiant battle against the rights of persons with disabilities again late in 2013.

So what do the Farristorum and the Hesulda have against people with disabilities? Well, mainly it’s just their fundraising niche. All the really lucrative religious-right direct-mail fundraising markets were already dominated by a few big players or were too saturated to allow room for yet another player trying to collect checks to fight the Gay Menace or the Satanic baby-killers.

So HSDLA had to get creative, claiming that the convention threatens American “sovereignty” and “states rights.”

No, really, “States rights.” They say that. Because I guess when you’ve learned all your history from a home-school curriculum, you don’t realize that “states rights” has always been the last desperate bastion of villains and bastards and that the phrase will be forever associated with treason in defense of slavery and the people who started and lost a civil war then embraced terrorism for a century rather than accepting their military and moral defeat.

“States rights.” OK, then. So these are not good people, but at least they’re not pretending otherwise.

Apart from kicking-down at persons with disabilities, the HSDLA has also been in the news a bit recently due to its close association with something called the Vision Forum — a separate direct-mail fundraising agency promoting a proudly patriarchal form of white Christianity. Vision Forum was like an even creepier version of Bill Gothard’s creepy cult. It imploded late last year when its CEO/founder/pope, a guy named Doug Phillips, was found to have been conducting an affair with a woman young enough that “conducting an affair” seems like a too-polite euphemism for something closer to abuse.

But there’s a coda to the Vision Forum story — an upbeat epilogue following its ignominious end. It turns out that Vision Forum is also part of “the quiverfull, dominion-mandate Christian movie scene.” That’s a thing — it even sponsors an annual right-wing Independent Christian Film Festival. And the Vision Forum folks went and made themselves a movie, called Alone Yet Not Alone, which is all about how women are called to serve as “wife, mother or daughter.”

Katie Botkin describes the film:

The movie Alone Yet Not Alone has been called racist because of its portrayal of Native Americans, but that’s not really accurate. It’s actually reflecting the idea that Christian culture is superior to Native American culture; that other types of culture are hostile to real Christianity, and that real Christianity can and must eventually take over these other cultures.

And but so, the links and ties between the filmmakers, Vision Forum, and Michael Farris Inc. are incestuously overlapping, as Libby Anne explains:

The list of those involved also reads like a who’s who of Patrick Henry College graduates. (Patrick Henry College was founded by Home School Legal Defense Association founder Michael Farris in an effort to train up a new generation of Christian leaders to “retake America for Christ”). Alone Yet Not Alone was written by Tracy Leininger, a graduate of Patrick Henry College. Patrick Henry College alum and The Rebelution founder Brett Harris (brother of I Kissed Dating Goodbye author Joshua Harris and son of prominent Christian homeschool leader Gregg Harris) plays a leading role in the film. Several other Patrick Henry College graduates—including Ben Adams and Peter Forbes—were also involved. Not surprisingly, Michael Farris and HSLDA promoted the film heavily.

All that promotion paid off in the form of a bona fide Academy Award nomination. The title song, “Alone Yet Not Alone,” has been nominated for the Oscar for best original song. (Maybe due to the fact that it was co-written by “Bruce Broughton, who served on the Academy’s board of governors as a representative of the music branch from 2003 through 2012, when he was termed out.”

And here’s where things get really weird.

The song was performed and recorded by Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni — she’s famous enough in the white evangelical subculture not to need a last name — was paralyzed from the shoulders down in a diving accident in 1967. She learned to draw and to paint, holding a pen or brush in her mouth, and her inspirational story — propelled by a best-selling memoir — made her a popular speaker and evangelist.

And now, 46 years after the accident that left her a quadriplegic and 38 years publishing the memoir that made her a household name among white evangelicals, Joni Eareckson Tada has become the public face of the very same far-right Christianist groups that have effectively blocked the U.S. from ratifying the international Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities.

Seriously, what in the actual flaming fudge?

When white evangelicals traded in Jesus for the culture wars against the Satanic baby-killers, weird things were bound to follow, but who knew it would get this weird? Or this cruelly sick? Wow.

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