|Buzzflash Commentary - February 6,
Ashcroft Is No Friend to the
Perhaps we all missed the point.
I just received the posting below from a friend who
obtained it from the Ashcroft-watch mailing list.
Is there any validity to these statements concerning
John Ashcroft's record on disabilities?
Does he really believe that if someone is ill, this is
the result of the person's "sin" and that a child's
disability or illness is the "mark of the devil?"
Does Ashcroft truly believe that mental illness
can be cured by prayer and, therefore, the mentally
ill are not worthy of any state or federal funding
Does he feel that the disabled are unworthy of any
"special rights" because they are being punished by
God for their sins?
Maybe this is why John Ashcroft would not retract
his statement about Jim Brady being the "worst enemy
of responsible gun owners" -- because Jim Brady is
*obviously* evil; he is, afterall, disabled!
Is there any hope that such a man will defend the rights
of the sick, the elderly, the disabled, or the mentally
ill as Attorney General?
How much of this philosophy is likely to become policy
in the Bush administration once the churches have over-
run the secular safety net with "compassionate conservatism?"
Please check this out for us. I have disabled friends
who are truly frightened of this man.
Thank you for your work!
ASHCROFT'S RECORD ON DISABILITY ISSUES
AS GOVERNOR AND ATTORNEY GENERAL
1. As Governor, Ashcroft
stated that he thought mental
illness could be averted through prayer.
Ashcroft made statements to this effect at a 1986 meeting
with the state mental health commissioner and several
other people. Ashcroft as governor opposed increases
to the mental health budget. When the legislature voted
to approve more funding for mental health services, he
vetoed those appropriations.
The mental health commissioner, together with the coalition
of community mental health centers, convened a meeting
with Ashcroft to explain to need for budget increases for
mental health and substance abuse services.
Ten minutes into the meeting, Ashcroft stood up and
ended the meeting, saying that he did not believe the
statistics that were being provided and did not feel that
failure to fund mental health or substance abuse services
was a problem. He stated, "I don't know anyone with
mental illness & I don't know anyone with alcoholism
or a drug problem. If families just prayed together, these
things wouldn't happen."
Ashcroft made similar statements in public settings.
At a rally at the Missouri Capitol rotunda on Mental Health
Day, Governor Ashcroft preached from an open bible and
encouraged mental health consumers, their families and
advocates to stop relying on doctors and medications and
to "go down to the altar and pray" and that they would
thus "be cured."
2. John Ashcroft
has stated that disabilities are the product
Governor Ashcroft reportedly prayed over a child who had
developed a brain injury in order to get rid of the sin he
believed was the cause of the injury.
3. John Ashcroft's
wife has voiced his view that disabilities
are the mark of the devil.
Around 1983 or 1984, John Ashcroft's wife reportedly
made several calls to the head of the Missouri protection
and advocacy system, whose son had a seizure disorder,
to seek advice because her own son had been diagnosed
with a seizure disorder.
As John Ashcroft began his gubernatorial campaign, Mrs.
Ashcroft called the woman back to make sure that her
previous calls not be publicly disclosed because her
husband believed that such disabilities were "the mark
of the devil."
4. During John
Ashcroft's tenure as governor, several
psychiatric hospital and mental retardation facilities were
shut down or downsized, but the money saved did not go
toward creating community- based mental health services.
5. As Governor,
Ashcroft failed to make state buildings
Immediately after Ashcroft left the governorship, the
new governor was forced to spend $70 million on capital
improvements to make state buildings accessible. At the
time Ashcroft left office, approximately 3/4 of the state-
owned buildings in Missouri were inaccessible, including
vocational rehabilitation offices.
The state had been sued years before by a woman with
polio, Micky Gudermuth, over the inaccessibility of
Southeast Missouri State University, and had lost.
Yet, nothing was done to make the university accessible
until after Ashcroft left office.
Ashcroft drastically underfunded the state
Human Rights Commission.
When Ashcroft left the governorship, there was a backlog of
about 900 to 1000 complaints that were unopened. The new
governor had to hire extra staff for the Commission to process
7. When an AIDS
prevention poster was developed
through a state Dept. of Health-sponsored project,
Gov. Ashcroft decided that he did not like the posters
and he not only had them destroyed but made the
person who printed the posters reimburse the state
$7000 out of his own pocket for the printing.
ASHCROFT'S RECORD ON DISABILITY ISSUES
1. Senator Ashcroft
introduced the School Safety Act
of 1999, which attempted to weaken the IDEA's
This bill, which ultimately failed, would have cut off services
for special needs students who had weapons at school or
threatened harm. A similar provision sponsored by Senator
Ashcroft to amend the IDEA did pass as part of the
Education Flexibility Partnership Act of 1999.
2. Senator Ashcroft
voted against the Hate Crimes
Prevention Act, which would have amended federal
hate crimes legislation to extend hate crimes to include
crimes based on sexual orientation, gender and disability.
3. Senator Ashcroft
voted against the Mental Health
Parity Act, which mandated that insurance providers
who cover mental illness apply lifetime insurance
coverage limits equally to both physical and mental
4. Senator Ashcroft
twice voted against additional IDEA
funding in 2000.
5. Senator Ashcroft voted in 2000 against a bill
Medicare to cover prescription drug benefits.
In 1995, Senator Ashcroft introduced
a bill to convert
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) into a block grant to
7. Senator Ashcroft
twice refused to cosponsor legislation
reauthorizing the Ryan White Care Act, which provides
for care and treatment to individuals with HIV and AIDS.
8. In 1995,
Senator Ashcroft opposed Clarence Sundram,
who was nominated by President Clinton for a federal
district court judgeship.
Sundram, who is Indian American, was formerly the head of
the New York protection and advocacy system for individuals
with disabilities. Ashcroft's opposition was based in large part
on accusations that Sundram had changed his position on the
legalization of marijuana and was derived from two comments
that were taken out of context. Sundram stated in a letter to
Orrin Hatch that he does "not support the legalization of drugs
and never ha[s]."