Anderson Cooper Takes On Home Schooling Crank Michael Farris Over U.N. Disability Treaty

If anyone wanted to know where wingnuts Mike Lee and Rick Santorum got their talking points in opposing this United Nations treaty that just got voted down by the shameless Republicans in the Senate who were too afraid of the crackpots among their
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If anyone wanted to know where wingnuts Mike Lee and Rick Santorum got their talking points in opposing this United Nations treaty that just got voted down by the shameless Republicans in the Senate who were too afraid of the crackpots among their ranks to do the right thing, look no further than this guy -- Michael Farris.

CNN's Anderson Cooper did a nice job going after Sen. Mike Lee the other night when he was trying to defend leading the opposition to the treaty. This Monday evening, Cooper brought on the Home School Legal Defense Association's Farris to defend his position as well. Despite Cooper continually reminding Farris that the treaty would not directly impact United States' law or force parents of disabled children here to do anything, Farris continued to maintain that the opposite was true and that it has already impacted cases in the United States.

After he went off the air, Cooper did some follow up with their chief legal analyst at CNN, Jeffrey Toobin, who basically said that Farris was full of it. Farris continually challenged Cooper during the interview as someone who had no idea what he was talking about and painted himself as an expert because of his experience teaching law at the school he founded, Patrick Henry College. After reading a bit about it, it pretty well sounds like just another Liberty University, designed with the purpose of pushing home schooled evangelicals into the government and positions of power.

Here's more on that from Daily KOS: German reporter goes underground at Patrick Henry College:

Amrai Coen, a writer for the German weekly Die Zeit, wanted to visit Patrick Henry College, but the college administration refused her visit since the school had "bad experiences with foreign journalists." Undeterred, Amrai posed as a prospective student and showed up on campus on "Visitor's Day". Her piece on her experience that day provides a rare inside glimpse of life at America's Madrassa,

Nearly all of the students at Patrick Henry College have been home-schooled by ultra-conservative evangelical Christian parents. At Patrick Henry these young people can complete their christo-fascist indoctrination before joining right-wing think tanks and media groups in Washington. Students are taught to kneel before images of Jesus and Ronald Reagan; they attend lecturess on how America can waterboard its way to global dominance. Professors are dismissed if they actually teach science, since students are taught that the earth is only 6000 years old and baby Jesus frolicked with dinosaurs.

(Note: my translation from the Zeit piece)

The college has one mission: to save America from its downfall, from the abyss into which Barack Obama has steered the country in the past four years. Young conservative Christians are the soldiers in this wa. At Patrick Henry College they will be trained to fight one day on the front - as politicians, filmmakers, or entrepreneurs they will win back American society. Some have rejected Harvard or Yale in order to study here.

I'm sure much to the dismay of their founder, an LGBT group has also been making the public aware of how the school treats their students: Patrick Henry College, Homeschool Bastion, Has LGBT Group.

Here's more background on Farris from Right Wing Watch as well: Michael Farris Warns that the UN might 'Get Control' over Children With Glasses:

Michael Farris of the Home School Legal Defense Association appeared on Today’s Issues with Family Research Council president Tony Perkins and American Family Association head Tim Wildmon today to call on Religious Right activists to mobilize against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. After passing out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the treaty is up for a vote by the full Senate. But Farris warns that the treaty is too ambiguous and flexible and could mean that children who wear glasses or have ADHD could be placed “under control of the UN treaty.” [...]

Later, Wildmon wished that the UN would close down and Perkins warned that the State Department is using the UN to impose “radical policies” like the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the “homosexual agenda” that “we would never accept here in the United States through our legislature,” not mentioning that treaties require a two-thirds vote in the Senate for ratification.

How Unhinged Rhetoric Sank a Disabilities Rights Treaty in the Senate:

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities failed to capture the 2/3 vote needed for ratification in the U.S. Senate today due to fierce Republican opposition. Many Republicans and their allies in the conservative movement claimed that the treaty codifies abortion into law, even though that preposterous claim was rejected by the National Right to Life Committee and Sen. John McCain. Along with the false charges about abortion, opponents of the treaty claimed it will undermine U.S. sovereignty and harm children. Critics like Rick Santorum warned that the treaty may kill his disabled daughter; Glenn Beck said it could create a “fascistic” government and Sen. Jim Inhofe alleged the treaty would help groups with “anti-American biases.”

One of the lesser-known but extremely active opponents of the bill was homeschooling activist Michael Farris. [...]

After warning that the treaty will kill children, Farris told conservative talk show host Steve Deace that the treaty will create a “cradle-to-grave care for the disabled” and said if the U.S. ratifies it “signing up to be an official socialist nation.” Farris claimed that the treaty will treat the parents of disabled children like child abusers in order to grow government power and implement “coercive socialism.”

“Everybody in America will be living under is socialism as an international entitlement” if the treaty passes, Farris maintained, “it’s a way to make the socialist, liberal, amoral element a permanent feature of our law.” Deace agreed and said the treaty will “due in freedom and liberty.”

And for anyone who didn't think they were subjected to quite enough of this interview, apparently there's more: Farris: U.N. treaty 'is a law'.

UPDATE: Here's the transcript of the segment above:

COOPER: Keep in mind, that was the nation's former top law enforcement official and a life-long Republican who believes there's nothing to the charges against the U.N. Disability Treaty.

Michael Farris, on the other hand, he's making a lot of the charges. He's chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He's also a chancellor of Virginia's Patrick Henry College. Mr. Farris is also the person who made the claim about children with eyeglasses.

Here's what he said in a radio interview for the -- with the American Family Association.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL FARRIS, CHAIRMAN, HOME SCHOOL LEGAL DEFENSE ASSOCIATION: The definition of disability is not defined in the treaty and so my kid wears glasses. Now they're disabled. Now the U.N. gets control over them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: He's saying so U.N. bureaucrats could get control over his child if they decided to define disability as kids with glasses. So keep that sound bite in mind. It came up earlier tonight when I spoke with Michael Farris.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Mr. Farris, you've been saying that this U.N. treaty would allow U.N. bureaucrats based in Geneva to take control of American kids. You said under this treaty the U.N. could define disability as kids who wore eyeglasses and therefore they would become under U.N. control. That's made up, though. I mean, how can you say that?

FARRIS: Well, first of all, I didn't say those things exactly. There are two different threads of the argument. One is that --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Well, you actually did say that. You were on a radio program and I have the quote.

FARRIS: Well -- OK. Well, let me -- let me give it to you straight. The eyeglasses comment was to illustrate the fact there's no definition of disability in the treaty.

COOPER: Right, it's left up to each country to define disability --

FARRIS: No.

COOPER: As per domestic law.

FARRIS: No, it is not. It says it's an evolving concept and it will be defined by the U.N. committee of experts that implement the treaty.

COOPER: Well, actually according to Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the treaty specifically leaves it up to each state to define disability under domestic law.

FARRIS: Well, maybe the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said that but that's what the Vienna Convention Law of Treaty says, not is it what the CRPD treaty itself says. It is a super (INAUDIBLE) treaty. It overrides inconsistent provisions in domestic law.

Under the Vienna Convention Law of Treaties no nation's law ever supersedes a treaty in the international arena. So you just need to understand the basics of international law which apparently is a little bit different for you and for some of the people that are speaking about this treaty.

COOPER: No, I actually understand it quite well, but there's also an advice and consent that the -- that the Senate negotiated and put on this treaty, which -- which specifies that this does not alter U.S. law in any way. That this treaty does not supersede U.S. law?

FARRIS: Well, it doesn't have such a broad reservation that you're talking about. There's a disability definition reservation that tracks it to a degree, but as a general proposition, we need to understand that the treaty is a law. It's not a declaration.

COOPER: What treaty --

FARRIS: Well, the case of --

COOPER: What U.N. treaty has -- has forced a state or taken over -- what U.N. bureaucrat has control over an American child? Under any treaty?

FARRIS: The Hague Convention on the international kidnapping which has a really wild title. I litigated a case this summer where an American mom lost her ability to litigate for the custody of her children and her children were sent to Zimbabwe where her Canadian husband took refuge.

That was a case I litigated this summer under that treaty. The Supreme Court in a case I wrote an amicus brief in and they specifically cited my brief dealing with juvenile justice issues used the U.N. Convention on the Rights of a Child to interpret American law. A federal district court --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But the U.S. hasn't signed on to the -- the U.N. Convention on the Rights of a Child.

FARRIS: Surprise, surprise, that's even more my point.

COOPER: You also claim that if the U.S. signed on to this U.N. treaty, on the Rights of Disabled People, we would be, quote, "signing up to be an official socialist nation."

FARRIS: That's true.

COOPER: Now this was a treaty negotiated under President Bush originally back in 2001. John McCain supports it, former attorney general Richard Thornburgh. You honestly say they want to be a socialist nation?

FARRIS: The treaty is economic, social and cultural rights at its core. The United States refuse to adopt the International Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights in the '60s. The Soviet bloc has adopted those treaties. The United States has never, ever adopted one of these treaties --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So you think George Bush wants to be -- this wants to be a socialist nation?

FARRIS: We have a big national debt because of the spending patterns of both Republicans and Democrats --

COOPER: OK. No, I'm just curious. So you're saying he wants socialism.

FARRIS: I don't think he understood --

COOPER: And John McCain wants socialism.

FARRIS: Well --

COOPER: Richard Thornburgh wants socialism.

FARRIS: I'm sure that you have more than once criticized President Bush for not having the capacity to understand all the issues.

COOPER: Actually I haven't.

FARRIS: I don't think he understood -- I don't think he understood this particular issue.

COOPER: You've also claimed that this treaty will ban spanking in America, that it will determine how many parking spaces a church should have set aside for disabled people. Again, there is not anything in this treaty that changes U.S. law. That in fact a lot of this is based on the Americans with Disabilities Act which is the gold standard, which I think you even support. And it doesn't alter U.S. law.

FARRIS: It -- Anderson, you're just wrong about that. I have an LL in public international law from the University of London.

COOPER: No, I'm sure you're much smarter than I.

(CROSSTALK)

FARRIS: I teach -- well, maybe on this -- I have studied this subject. If you wrote that statement, if John Kerry wrote that statement on an international law exam where I teach that subject, I would flunk you. COOPER: But you're alleging that somehow some U.N. committee of bureaucrats based in Geneva is going to have the power to change U.S. law. As you know under this treaty, that U.N. committee has not -- gives non-binding recommendations to countries about how to treat disabled people. They have no power to change law. And under this treaty, it's left to each country, again, to apply the term disability consistent with its own domestic law.

FARRIS: Anderson, I'm going to give you a video clip for a U.N. hearing held the day before the Senate vote, where in the U.N., in New York City, a disability advocate said that we need to make sure that we implement this treaty as a superseding document. That means that it overrides national law. And the idea that you're portraying about this, basically, from watching your video clips, when a Democrat says something, that's a fact. When a conservative says something, that's an unproven allegation.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Actually, no. Then you're saying Richard Thornburgh is Democrat because we had had him on the show.

FARRIS: No.

COOPER: He's the father of a disabled child. He's been studying this for 30 years and has a personal stake in this and he says you're completely making stuff up.

FARRIS: Well, I say he's absolutely wrong and he doesn't have the degree in international law. I do. I teach international law. And so --

COOPER: Yes.

FARRIS: He just simply is wrong about that. He can say what he wants to say, but he's an advocate for the treaty. And I'm telling you this as a matter of reality --

COOPER: So the recommended conditions that were approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and attached to this treaty that restrict the power of the treaty and this resolution of advice and consent, the RUD, which includes reservations of conditions that limit and clarify the extent of any obligations this treaty might entail, I mean, are you saying they have no impact? Because I -- my understanding is, and you probably know this better than I, the Supreme Court has ruled that these kind of conditions from a Senate committee which are attached to this treaty trump any language in that treaty.

FARRIS: You're absolutely right about that point. If -- if an RUD is correctly written, it will limit the effect of the treaty. For example, the non-self-executing provision of the treaty. That was well written, it will work. It will stop an American court from implementing the treaty without first being pursued and in a proper legislative fashion or in an administrative fashion by either the political branches of government. But that doesn't mean that the United States is not obligated to obey the treaty.

COOPER: I just don't see any real -- I mean, a case you can cite, specific cases where individuals have argued in court or judges -- you know, have used U.N. conventions, but I don't see any U.N. bureaucrats ruling, or changing the laws of states, and ruling over American children.

FARRIS: Well, it's because you don't open your eyes. The most distressing thing was how often the senators spent time praising themselves and praising each other and praising Bob Dole for their work on this rather than actually reading the document and talking about the articles within the treaty.

COOPER: Well, I think most of them were praising Bob Dole for not just his service in the Senate but service to the country in which he was wounded and that's why he's disabled, but I get your point.

Michael Farris, I appreciate your being on and arguing it well. Thank you.

FARRIS: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That's one view, by the way. We had to trim that interview for time, but you can see the entire conversation online at ac360.com.

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