The Holy Synod of the Œcumenical Canonical Orthodox Church Worldwide (ŒCOCW) following its review of the well-intended United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Convention) discourages the Congress of the United States and President Obama from ratifying this particular international convention.
The ŒCOCW finds several aspects of this Convention discomforting based upon the potential for misapplying certain articles and provisions contained within this document. Particular concerns involve such matters as:
The UN directives in this Convention should not be imposed or superseded to override the US Constitution’s Supremacy Clause. Specifically, American law currently defends persons with disabilities, known as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, ensures protection for persons with disabilities, and has been enshrined in law.
While the ŒCOCW does not support this Convention in its entirety, as a religious organization concerned with human rights and freedoms, the ŒCOCW stresses observation, respect and protection in the following areas:
1. The dignity and value of women as persons and in their role as mothers and caregivers must be respected.
2. The nature of the family as the fundamental social structure must be recognized, and the rights of the family must be protected, not modified.
3. Components of the Convention potentially limits the right of parents to “Homeschooling” of children with disabilities and the right to transmit and educate their children with sound moral and spiritual beliefs. This is based upon Article 7 of the Convention, which requires all member states to the Convention to transfer ultimate schooling decisions from parental authority to that of the state or federal government.
3. Legitimate rights of sovereign nations to self-determination of cultural and religious beliefs and practices must be protected.
4. Terms must be adequately and acceptably defined, minimizing “penumbra” interpretations, while opposing ideological agendas in the provisions of UN conventions.
It is also important that the Congress of the United States remain vigilant of protecting American law, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, which guarantees religious freedoms that many European nations do not have, and such limitations cannot be imposed on US freedom.
The Constitutional guarantee of religious freedom is fundamental to the exercise of many other guaranteed rights. Therefore, the ratification by the United States of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would result in American jurisprudence becoming subordinate forms of law and increases the potential for introducing foreign legal systems into the American jurisprudence system.
As an international entity, the ŒCOCW and the member hierarchs of her Holy Synod are especially sensitive to living in nation states where religious freedom is absent and where the rights of individuals is made subordinate to that of the State, and imprisonment for the exercise of human rights are punishable by law. ŒCOCW member hierarchs have also experienced the confiscation of churches, the closure of church operated schools and similar restrictions of highly valued freedoms.
Therefore, in recognition of the good intentions of the authors of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the ŒCOCW encourages the UN to consider advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities within the domains of each country and seek to enlist the support of the respective religious and human rights organizations of each nation.
Additionally, the ŒCOCW encourages the Congress of the United States and the Obama Administration to investigate alternative responses to the UN Convention and provide leadership in the protection of persons with disabilities or other limitations that can result in substandard social inclusion and participation both at home and aboard, while protecting the future of our Constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom.
Written in collaboration by +Metropolitan Scholarios-Gennadius III, OSB and +Metropolitan Gregory Timotheos, OSB, Archbishop of Canada.