Disability rights are a state/church issue

If you care about the separation of state and church, then you care about disability rights.

The theocratic Christian nationalist ideology and rhetoric that led to Roe v. Wade being overturned is the same ideology that continues to play a part in the oppression of disabled Americans and the stagnant state of disability rights. All secular Americans should be concerned with inadequate and threatened disability rights, since it is an indicator of the continued expansion of Christian nationalism and its assault on bodily autonomy as part of its anti-state/church separation agenda.


Outdated and patronizing religious views continue to harm disabled Americans

Christianity is a primary foundation for the often dismissive and infantilizing views that many in the United States, including politicians and judges, hold toward disabled individuals. Christianity and the bible preach the views that disability is simultaneously a punishment from God —  a way for God to demonstrate his “power,” yet also a sign of chastity and purity. Disabled people in this perspective are somehow more pious than the nondisabled; they are charity cases lacking sexual, or even romantic, desires; and they serve as a means through which nondisabled people can grow morally and spiritually by taking on the burden of befriending or caring for a disabled person. These outdated, offensive and patently inaccurate stereotypes of disabled people are perpetuated by Christian nationalists.


The Christian nationalist assault on bodily autonomy 

Christian nationalist ideology supports a restrictive and discriminatory view of bodily autonomy. Bodily autonomy is the simple concept that an individual has the right to decide what does or does not happen to their body. In the Christian nationalist view, bodily autonomy is subject to debate and compromise and can even be taken away any time it conflicts with alt-right Christian beliefs. This frightening and dehumanizing ideology negatively impacts all Americans but it especially impacts marginalized communities, such as those with disabilities and LGBTQIA+ Americans.


FFRF supports anti-discrimination laws and ending religious exemptions

FFRF works to support anti-discrimination laws that protect disabled Americans. Part of protecting disability rights is ending exemptions for religious employers. Under current law, religious employers have the privilege of being exempt from basic anti-discrimination laws. Unfortunately, in the last decade some religious organizations have begun to push the boundaries of these exemptions in an attempt to expand their ability to legally discriminate against employees.

Further, under current law, religious entities, such as houses of worship, Catholic-owned hospitals and private religious schools, are exempt from Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Title III of the ADA addresses disability-based discrimination, and requires places of public accommodation to ensure disabled individuals have access to goods and services, make reasonable policy modifications, and communicate effectively with individuals who have vision, hearing, or speech-related disabilities. Since religious entities are exempt from this provision, it means they are allowed to discriminate against disabled individuals for no other reason than that these organizations are religious in nature.

FFRF works to fight religious exemptions. Religious outfits should not be given an open license to discriminate. For instance, in 2020, FFRF filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in the case Our Lady of Guadalupe v. Morrissey-Berru, arguing that the court should not expand a legal exemption, as it unfortunately did, that would potentially allow religious organizations to fire employees for discriminatory reasons, such as disability status, simply by labeling the employee a “minister.” 


Court reform is necessary to protect and improve disability rights

The wall of separation between state and church cannot be rebuilt and protected without court reform. FFRF has long advocated for court reform, having recognized early on that all issues relating to state/church separation will benefit from a reformed judiciary, including an expanded Supreme Court. The Supreme Court and lower federal courts have been broken for far too long, creating an existential threat to our secular democracy. For disability rights to remain safe, or have any hope of improving, we must have judges at all levels of the federal judiciary who are ethical, fair, well-qualified and representative of the American population, including disabled Americans.

Freedom From Religion Foundation