Of the three pillars of the United Church of Christ, a church that is Multicultural/Multiracial, Open and Affirming, and Accessible to All, the third has Carolyn R. Thompson working diligently as the United States Senate gets ready to vote on a United Nations treaty that advocates for the rights of people with disabilities.
The United States has signed the The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and the Senate will vote on ratifying it Tuesday, Dec. 4. The treaty has the support of 300 veteran and disability organizations in the country, but even with more than 60 senators supporting the proposal, it's about four votes short of passing (two-thirds majority is needed).
That's where Thompson, a former member of the UCC Disability Ministry Board and of the Wider Church Ministries Board, comes in. She is asking the wider church to voice its support for the treaty, and to encourage senators to vote in favor of its ratification.
"I know that the United Church of Christ has a strong and creditable voice when it comes to human rights and justice issues," said Thompson, who recieved an M. Div. and felt called to "ecumenical work that encompasses disability theology and advocacy."
The CRPD asks countries to guarantee that people with disabilities are entitled to a right to life equal with others, ensure equal rights advancements of women and girls with disabilities, and protect children with disabilities. CPRD has been signed by 154 countries and ratified by 124.
In an editorial published Sunday, Dec. 2, the Washington Post gave the treaty a thumbs-up, saying that the U.S. has been a leader in opening opportunities for people with disabilities, and that as other nations lag, that's a good reason for ratification.
"No other U.N. treaty specifically protects the rights of people with disabilities who make up one-seventh of the world's population," Thompson said. "Other countries are beginning to enact legislation like our Americans with Disabilities Act. We need to step up to the plate, ratify this U.N. Convention, and assume our leadership role."
An opposition led by Senator Rick Santorum far right claims CRPD will cost the government money, opens the U.S. to foreign rule and harms people with disabilities. Thompson says that simply is not true and that the CRPD does not request any government funds. Key Senators opposing the CRPD are: Isakson, Georgia; Chambliss, Georgia; Grassley, Iowa; Coats, Indiana; Moran, Kansas; Roberts, Kansas; Blunt, Missouri; Heller, Nevada; Hutchison, Texas; Hatch, Utah.
More information about the CRPD is available on the United Nations website.