Faculty Sponsor

Professor Jakelić


Christ College


Christ College

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 5-3-2018


Individuals with cognitive disabilities often fall victim to discrimination, and even violence, due to stigmas and inefficient legal standards. This paper seeks to affirm equal rights for all individuals, grounding this argument in the idea that every person deserves the same human and religious rights, regardless of mental capacities, under the assumption that human dignity is something inherent to all humans since we are all created via Imago Dei, or “in the image of God”. The first part of this paper takes on traditional philosophies frequently used to justify the concept of human dignity, such as those of Aristotle and Kant, which value thought but do not adequately affirm the dignity or protect the rights of those whose reasoning is impaired. The theological concept of Imago Dei disregards differences in mental capacities, providing stronger justification for equivalent human dignity, and therefore, more adequately protects human rights. The second part of this paper uncovers the inexcusable amount of discrimination disabled persons suffer within communities committed to Imago Dei, like within the Christian Church. This indicates that commitment to the theology isn’t in itself enough. I suggest that here we discover the importance of religious ritual and total inclusion in the forming of religious community and protection of rights. The discrimination in society and exclusion from the community of believers in the Christian church takes away this inherent dignity. The responsibility rests with reasoning individuals to affirm the deserved dignity of those who lack the ability to affirm it for themselves.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Growing up with a neighbor with Down Syndrome, I learn at an early age that one’s capacity to learn has no correlation on one’s capacity to engage in meaningful relationships or a purposeful life. As our friendship grew, I also witnessed the discrimination and bullying that she faced because of her differences. In my paper, I plan to explain that those with mental handicaps uphold the same levels of human dignity as any other human.