UCC Collegium: U.S. failure to ratify U.N. disabilities treaty is 'ignoble, disconcerting wrong'
December 10, 2012

On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law on the lawn of the White House. With him on the platform were the Rev. Harold Wilke, Evan Kemp, Sandra Parrino, and Justin Dart Jr., all members of the Disability Rights Movement who had urged the passage of the bill. Photo courtesy of George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

As national officers of the United Church of Christ, we condemn the moral failure of the United States Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on Dec. 4 as an affront to justice, accessibility, and full inclusion everywhere, and as an embarrassment to the United States government at home and around the world.  The United Church of Christ joined the concerted effort of over 300 organizations and thousands of advocates in a nationwide petition to the members of the U.S. Senate who threatened to vote no.   Sadly their hearts were not changed in spite of our appeal for justice and inclusion. 

None other than the inclusive ministry of Jesus Christ, who taught forthrightly of God's priority invitation to the "lame, maimed and blind" (Luke 14), compels us, as leaders of an accessible-to-all Christian denomination of 5,100 U.S. congregations, to speak as one  faithful voice against the outrageous political posturing that has led to this bewildering fiasco. 

If passed, the United States would have joined 126 other counties that support the international treaty, one patterned after our own U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act.  However, in an act of partisan opportunism that emphasized so-called "U.S. sovereignty" over our nation's participation in the global community and against steps to safeguard the self-determination of people with disabilities around the world, the treaty received just 61 votes in the U.S. Senate, six less than the 67 needed for ratification. Thirty-eight Senators voted no.

As a church long committed to the rights and full inclusion of persons with disabilities, the United Church of Christ today remembers and invokes the leadership and legacy of the late Rev. Harold H. Wilke, the UCC minister who pioneered the movement for passage of the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act and who stood beside President George H.W. Bush on the day of its historic signing in 1990.  It is in his memory, and on behalf of the countless others who continue his courageous witness for inclusion, that we recommit ourselves anew to advocacy on behalf of more than one billion people —about 15 percent of the world's population — who live with a disability.

Full integration, access, and self-determination are more than political rights, they are human rights, given to us at birth by God.  Therefore, as people of faith, we urgently call upon the U.S. Senate to immediately reconsider this ignoble decision and act in haste to right this disconcerting wrong.

The Collegium of Officers of the United Church of Christ

The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black
General Minister and President

Mr. W. Mark Clark
Associate General Minister

The Rev. J. Bennett Guess
Executive Minister, Local Church Ministries

The Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo
Executive Minister, Justice and Witness Ministries

The Rev. James Moos
Executive Minister, Wider Church Ministries

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Ms. Connie N. Larkman
Managing Editor & News Director
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115
216-736-2196
larkmanc@ucc.org