The Briefing 05-19-14

The Briefing 05-19-14

The Briefing


 May 19, 2014

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


It’s Monday, May 19, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.


As usual, many newsworthy events happened over the weekend, but the most important news release surely came in Saturday’s edition of The New York Times. It’s an article by Alan Schwarz. The headline is “Thousands of Toddlers are Medicated for ADHD, Report Finds, Raising Worries.” Well worries, indeed, and worries that ago beyond what the report indicated on Friday when it was released. As Schwarz relates:


More than 10,000 American toddlers 2 or 3 years old are being medicated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder outside established pediatric guidelines


This was, on Friday, released in data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report found that toddlers covered by Medicaid are particularly prone to be put on medications such as Ritalin and Adderall. This is the first report of its kind having to do with pediatric patients this young. After all, we’re talking about, again, toddlers; in the case of this study, age two or three. Schwarz gets to the heart of the medical concern when he writes:


The American Academy of Pediatrics standard practice guidelines for A.D.H.D. do not even address the diagnosis in children 3 and younger — let alone the use of such stimulant medications, because their safety and effectiveness have barely been explored in that age group. “It’s absolutely shocking, and it shouldn’t be happening,” said Anita Zervigon-Hakes, a children’s mental health consultant to the Carter Center. “People are just feeling around in the dark. We obviously don’t have our act together for little children.”


A similar statement was made by Dr. Lawrence Diller, a behavioral pediatrician in California. He said in a telephone interview with The New York Times:


People prescribing to 2-year-olds are just winging it. It is outside the standard of care, and they should be subject to malpractice if something goes wrong with a kid.


Schwarz gets to the heart of the political issue when he says that the report is likely to raise concerns about ADHD diagnoses and medications for American children beyond what many experts consider medically justified.


But even in that sentence, there’s a great deal that’s implied and taken for granted. For instance, what in the world is normal? What would a normal percentage of American children diagnosed with ADHD and given these behavioral drugs, psychotropic drugs, what would that percentage look like? Well certainly not what the current diagnosis reveals. Last year, a nationwide report from the CDC indicated that 11% of all American children aged four to seventeen have received at some point, in that age range between four and seventeen, a diagnosis of ADHD, and about one in five boys in America will be diagnosed with ADHD in childhood.


The next sentence indicates some of the complications at least medically for this. The vast majority of these boys—indeed, these American children, but boys especially—are put on medications, including Ritalin or amphetamines like Adderall, and as Schwarz explains, these often calm a child’s hyperactivity and impulsivity, but they also carry risk for growth suppression, insomnia, and hallucinations. Not incidental side effects, we would note.


But from a Christian worldview perspective, the key issue in this report is the findings summarized by Schwarz in this paragraph:


Children below age 4 are not covered in those guidelines because hyperactivity and impulsivity are developmentally appropriate for toddlers [that according to several experts; not to mention almost all parents], and more time is needed to see if a disorder is truly present.


Now that’s a stunning paragraph. It’s an incredible statement. Now from a Christian worldview perspective, this is incredibly revealing because it reveals the fact that many American parents, an incredible number, perhaps even of millions, of American parents are basically thinking that something is wrong with their children for being children, and especially think that something is wrong with their boys for being boys. When you have thousands and thousands of American toddlers diagnosed with ADHD, as even the secular New York Times indicates, this is insanity because, after all, the kind of hyperactivity we’re talking about here is exactly what would be out of place in an 18-year-old, but is absolutely normal for a toddler. And furthermore, impulsivity and toddlerhood go absolutely together.


Now there are so many things from a biblical perspective to keep in mind here. Number one: we understand that human beings do develop. Even, we are told in the gospel of Luke, Jesus Himself, as a human being, fully incarnate in human flesh, developed. He increased in stature and in wisdom and in favor with God and man. In other words, one of the things that is normal about human beings is the fact that we develop. We do not expect a toddler to sit down and take the SAT. On the other hand, we do expect that a 17-year-old can sit down and do well taking such a test, can focus on the task at hand, and give attention to it, adequate attention. But when you’re talking about toddlers, after all, they are toddlers. They are to be treated as toddlers, respected as toddlers, honored as toddlers, and even we should see the glory of God in them because God is glorified in the fact that He has made us as those who amongst all His creatures need the most maternal and paternal care, certainly from the earliest years of life. The human infant is the most helpless of all the infants in the entire biological world, and the reason for that has something to do with the fact that God intended for us to be parents, to raise our children, to nurture them and discipline and teach them, to invest ourselves and to see God’s glory in them. We laugh at our toddlers because they’re toddlers. We love to see them take their first steps and then grow and encounter with the world. We love to see them learn new things. We even revel and find enjoyment in their misunderstandings, in their stumbles, in their attempts to grow and to learn. This is what we expect out of toddlers, and when it comes to impulsivity and hyperactivity, that’s exactly what we should expect from toddlers. As a matter of fact, they are generally hyperactive from the moment they wake up until they fall exhausted into their cribs or into their beds, with their parents feeling like they want to follow them in that exhaustion.


Like so many things, this particular report indicates that we are a deeply troubled society, and we are now forcing that trouble on our own children as young as two and three. And when you have 10,000 American toddlers reported as now not only diagnosed with ADHD, but generally receiving these kinds of psychotropic drugs, it’s not the children who have the problem. It’s not even just their parents who have the problem. It’s the entire society that has a problem. And at least, we should take heart that the Centers for Disease Control think something is wrong here, and leading pediatricians say there’s something broken here, and even The New York Times says there’s something newsworthy here. Oh, it’s newsworthy, of course, but it tells us something deeply troubling about our society and something that no drug and no psychiatric diagnosis can contain.


From a political perspective, two very important articles in The Wall Street Journal in the weekend edition. Carol Lee wrote an article on the fact that discord is now growing between President Obama and his own party, the Democratic Party. She writes:


President Barack Obama is encountering an increasingly resistant Democratic caucus on Capitol Hill, as lawmakers in his party break with him on a series of issues in the run-up to the November elections.


Something to watch very carefully is the fact that when there are these midterm elections, and especially when there is a second term president of a party in the White House, that same party tends to move even further away from the president in the direction of its own internal logic. In other words, the Democratic Party is turning further left even with President Obama in the White House, and they’re moving even to the left of President Obama. This is something to watch especially in this primary season in the spring as the general election for the midterms comes in the fall. Carol Lee reports:

It is a common election-year posture for lawmakers from the same party as the sitting president, especially one whose popularity has waned, as Mr. Obama’s has. But Democrats’ recent moves to demonstrate their independence are forcing Mr. Obama to compromise on an agenda already largely opposed by Republicans. And it comes at a point in his presidency when time is running short to accomplish his goals.


Now at several points, even going back to President Obama’s reelection in 2012, we pointed out that the second term of an American president is almost always laden with trouble and it’s embedded with frustration because the actual political term for a president in his second term is actually something close to 13 to 18 months. He is reelected and by the time he’s inaugurated for a second term, his own party is already thinking of who will succeed him, and, furthermore, of how they will save their own skins when it comes to the midterm election, when in the general cycle, the party of a sitting president in the second term loses a sizable number of seats. But now the Democrats are splitting from the president. And President Obama is perhaps the most liberal president in American history, in terms of social positions and political positions, and now his own party is breaking with him to the left. Chris Kofinis, a Democratic strategist and former Chief of Staff to Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, said, “This is part of the Catch-22 about second terms: Members want to get re-elected, and the president wants to have his agenda. These don’t always sync.” That’s an understatement, of course, and that’s made clear in the other article that appeared earlier (that’s just a few days ago) in The Wall Street Journal by Michael Crittenden and Kristina Peterson. As they write, “The White House is struggling to win Senate confirmation of a U.S. District Court nominee due to skepticism from Democrats.” In other words, the president is facing opposition about a judicial nominee, but it’s not coming from the Republicans. It’s coming from the Democrats. As the reporters tell us:


Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee expressed sharp criticism [last week] of Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs over his past support as a Democratic legislator for antiabortion measures [and also his] opposition to same-sex marriage.


Senator Dianne Feinstein, a liberal standard-bearer Democratic senator from California, said she was concerned that Mr. Boggs may let his personal views on issues such as abortion distort or affect his decisions if he is confirmed to the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. She said, “For my vote, I have to have certainty. I don’t know quite how to get it in view of this record.” Well, Senator Feinstein, you’re never going to have certainty. Just ask President Reagan or President George H.W. Bush. Those presidents, like most presidents before them, discovered that when you make a judicial appointment, you just have no certainty about how a judge or Supreme Court justice will eventually rule. And when it comes to this particular judge, here you have a Democratic president who has appointed someone with Democratic experience with the support of Democratic officeholders in Georgia to a federal judicial post only to have his own party on the left say, “Now wait just a minute. We’re not going to approve this candidate. Not until we’re absolutely certain that when he previously took stands for the sanctity of human life and for the natural definition of marriage, until we have certainty that he will repudiate those in his judicial actions, we will not confirm him.”


And in a sign of stellar political courage, the Democratic majority leader in the Senate, Harry Reid of Nevada, said he’ll wait to decide how he’s going to weigh in on the matter. In other words, an incumbent president of the United States, the standard bearer for his own party, is left hanging in the wind by his own party in the United States Senate. That’s not shocking news, but it is something we should take into consideration as we think about the future of America and the importance of the midterm elections. It’s important for us all to know that as those midterm elections approach, the Democratic Party is breaking with its own president and shifting significantly to the left.


Last week, we talked about a controversy here in Louisville, Kentucky, where at Atherton High School parents were concerned about the fact that a freshman who was born a boy was being recognized as a girl and that the school’s principal was allowing the student, now identifying as a girl rather than a boy, to use the girl’s restroom. And that controversy spilled over into a public meeting of the school and its parents on Thursday afternoon when the principal of the school made very clear he intends to continue the policy. At the meeting, Principle Thomas Aberli said he would continue to discuss the policy, but he said the school’s current policy gives him the authority for assigning space and he said for now he plans to continue his current procedure.


Chris Kenning, reporting for the Louisville Courier-Journal, said that students will continue to be allowed to use the facilities of their gender identity, according to the principal, adding that even though he knows some aren’t happy, “that decision isn’t going to change, not unless I’m told to do otherwise.” Well it’s not likely he’s going to be told to do otherwise. It’s not that it’s unlikely he’ll hear that from parents, but rather from the school board because the school board is indicating that it might consider a similar policy be enforced at all of the district’s 155 schools.


David Kelty has a ninth grade daughter. He’s outraged by the situation. He says:


The concerns of one student are being given more weight and legitimacy than the concerns of many other members of Atherton. Clearly, many parents think that the privacy rights of their own children, especially girls born as girls in this case, are being violated by having someone with the physical and biological identity of a boy in the restroom with their own daughters.


Other parents thought otherwise. According to the report, others, including a mother of a transgender student at another school, said that gender-neutral bathrooms create their own problems. That was one of the suggestions: instead of allowing this particular student to use the girl’s restroom, that student should be allowed to use a gender-neutral restroom. But one transgender-student parent said that’s not acceptable. She went on to say, forcing transgender students to use a separate bathroom means forcing them to out themselves in a way that violates their own privacy rights. “Don’t deny my child’s right to be who they are.”


So here you have an absolute collision of worldviews. You have parents lining up on one side and parents on the other side. Some parents, even as the media have reflected, a majority of parents, think that boys should use the boys room and girls should use the girls room and that should be assigned by biological sex. But others feel otherwise and they are currently the ones pleased with the principal’s decision. The principal’s decision he says will stand until he is told to do otherwise and that is a day that is unlikely to come.


One girl on the school council said, at the Thursday meeting, she didn’t mind sharing the bathroom. Another speaker said, “Just because someone has a male body doesn’t mean that person is male.” Now that shows you just how much this particular worldview has now infected especially young people. Where you have students coming and, saying the statement again, “Just because someone has a male body doesn’t mean that person is male.” Now let’s just consider the fact that if you think about the entire span of human history and you just consider universal human history and human experience up until very recent times—and I mean very recent times—that would’ve been an insane proposition. The fact that it is not now universally recognized as such tells us, well, it tells us something very similar to what that ADHD story tells us: our society is losing all rationality and sanity on an issue as basic as gender.


But as I said when discussing this last week, one of the problems here is that you have a clash of moral absolutes even on the side of those who are pushing for this transgender revolution. How in the world do you handle the kind of incommensurate claims that are being made here? For instance, you have people who are saying it’s absolutely unjust for someone to be required to use the bathroom and the locker room of the biologically assigned sex at birth, and you have others who are saying that it’s unjust to require some student in transition or someone who has undergone a transgender change to use even a gender-neutral bathroom. And that’s reflected even in The Courier-Journal where, in an article that appeared on its website, but not in the printed paper, a spokesperson for the transgender community—that’s Holly Knight, the president of Siena, known as the Louisville Transgender Organization—took a position different than that of the principal of the school. Holly Knight said that given the young age of the student, it might be appropriate to use a unisex bathroom, like Manual High School here in Louisville has. That could be a reasonable decision for the school. Directly quoting, “I get that at a high school, there probably needs to be some provisions in that way for people that are uncomfortable on both ends. I think that is a good thing.” At the same time, this spokesperson said that the particular position advocated might not be pleasing even to the transgender community.


In conclusion, this spokesperson said, “I think it would be a mistake for the transgender community and for everyone else to say we’re going to be okay if you just present as a female and you get to go to the bathroom for the girls.” Now why would that transgender spokesperson say that? It’s because it makes common sense even to this person who is the leader of a transgender advocacy group. Why? Because we’re talking about adolescents, and now this principal and this school are saying to adolescents you can simply claim, immediately claim, to identify with the opposite sex and get to use the bathroom and potentially even the locker room of that opposite sex. That is, as even this transgender activist recognizes, nonsensical. It’s not fair. And furthermore, there you have the evidence of the fact that even in that community you have conflicting absolutist arguments about what is right.


Keep that in mind when you remember that just days ago, the Defense Secretary of the United States Chuck Hagel said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” program, “Every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it.” That was with explicit reference to barriers that currently exist in the Armed Forces and in combat situations for transgendered individuals. The New York Times, in a lead editorial that appeared on Thursday, May 15th, on discrimination in the military, according to its own headline, said:


Three years after the demise of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” an estimated 15,000 members of the military still must lie about themselves in order to go on risking their lives for their country. When Congress eliminated the law against gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, the Pentagon left in place an equally unfounded prohibition on transgender people.


The New York Times editors actually go even further, arguing not only for the full inclusion of transgender individuals in the American military, but for the military to take on the responsibility for hormone treatment and other medical care. As they write:


As for gender-changing surgery, [a recent] panel noted that some elective cosmetic surgeries allowed at military medical facilities require similar leave time and risk more serious postoperative complications.


In other words, get with the program. The editors conclude:


Addressing issues like privacy and housing is not rocket science. It happens in civilian workplaces all the time. With the right leadership, outbreaks of intolerance can be minimized.


So in other words, any opposition to this is just an outbreak of intolerance. There’s that argument all over again. But notice the previous story having to do with Atherton High School. Notice the similar controversies going on American college and university campuses and in many American workplaces. The fact is that the editors have it wrong. This is not a settled issue. Nowhere in America is it a fully-settled issue. It’s not even a settled issue in the transgender community. Just imagine what is now being demanded of the American military and that tells us something of a final analysis. And that is when you put these two stories together, having to do with the public schools and America’s military, you come to understand that those who are trying to push a radical moral agenda, a radical social agenda, know that if they can change those two basic institutions in America and make them the engines for that kind of moral revolution, they can’t but succeed. That’s why there is so much attention to the public schools and to the military. And that’s why it’s no coincidence that these two stories arrive just hours in separation from one another. That, as common sense recognizes, is not a coincidence.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. Remember the release of Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. Call with your question in your voice to 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

Podcast Transcript

1) High rate of toddler ADHD medication exposes something wrong with society, not children

Thousands of Toddlers Are Medicated for A.D.H.D., Report Finds, Raising Worries, New York Times (Alan Schwarz)

2) Democrats breaking left of President Obama in preparation for mid-term elections

Democrats Drifting From Obama, Wall Street Journal (Carol Lee)

Democrats Criticize Court Pick, Wall Street Journal (Michael Crittenden and Kristina Peterson)

3) Public schools and military targeted as potential engines of change for transgender agenda

Atherton OKs transgender non-discrimination policy, Louisville Courier-Journal (Chris Kenning)

Transwoman gives opinion, advice on Atherton controversy, WHAS (Michelle Arnold)

Discrimination in the Military, New York Times (Editorial Board)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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