People who read the title of this post may be led to think that I am anti-church, anti-Christianity. And I get that. It’s a title that may come across as directly attacking Christianity.
To the contrary, however, I believe that sometimes the best love is to offer honest, constructive criticism, especially when it comes to matters of justice. In the case of ableism within American Christianity, I offer some constructive criticism: opposition to implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act from many in the American Church is wrong, and that opposition must end.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law twenty-nine years ago as of this Friday. It was arguably the most sweeping civil rights legislation since various African American civil rights legislation passed in the 1960s.
And yet, a key institution, a key group was excluded from the ADA: religious institutions.
Religious institutions as a whole are exempt from the ADA, but I should note that it seemed to be Christians who really took the lead in advocating against the inclusion of religious institutions in the legislation (hence, my focus on Christians in this post). The arguments from the (predominantly Christian) opponents at the time involved the money argument (that it would cost too much) and the “problem” involved with government “intruding” on religious institutions.
Money is an understandable concern, as it costs money to make any building ADA-accessible. However, using money as an excuse to not support the ADA at all (and de facto to exclude a whole group of people from churches), as opposed to coming to an agreement that would implement the ADA at churches and other religious institutions in a way that makes the churches accessible without bankrupting the congregations, does give credence to Timothy’s argument that the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10)—in this case, the evil being the exclusion of people from church spaces and the desire to hold on to money rather than spend it in order to make worship and fellowship spaces accessible to all being at the root of this evil.
I find it difficult to rationalize the “intrusion” argument—the argument that government forcing churches to comply with ADA would be too intrusive. It is wrongful that church institutions have in this case been more concerned about “intrusion” than the fact that the lack of it has literally kept people of various disabilities from going to church, and in many cases keeping people of various disabilities from becoming or staying Christian. I know people who have found themselves spiritually homeless, if not abandoning their faith, because we as a Church have often worried more about intrusion than about the fact that inaccessible churches keep people away from church.
Controversial as it may be for me to say this, religious institutions should not be exempt from the Americans with Disabilities Act. Additionally, regardless of what the law is, individual church congregations should try to use the money and resources they do have to make their churches more accessible to people with a variety of disabilities. It is the right thing to do.
 Note that I am a Christian, so it is important for me (and other Christians who care about this issue) to give constructive criticism.