The Briefing 10-18-17
Tags: Abortion, Audio, California, Gambling, Jerry Brown, Religious Liberty
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Wednesday, October 18, 2017. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
We’ll see why the dance of legislation in California shows the danger to religious liberty and constitutional protections all across the country, we’ll see how a major American liberal political figure shifted in terms of the political spectrum without ever moving, and we will look at why the issue of gambling is often overlooked as a major moral issue.
Dance of legislation in CA shows the danger to religious liberty across the country
The state of California, the nation’s most populous state, is often the epicenter of cultural and moral change in the nation. The reasons for this are several. It has to do first of all with the sheer size of the state, but it also has to do with the fact that the West Coast is a far more liberal culture writ large than what you find in the remainder of the nation. If you take the nation as a whole, the closer you get to a coast, either the East or the West, the more liberal the society is likely to be — especially when it comes to the Northeast, and especially when it comes to the West Coast. Another reason for this is the fact that in California you have such a concentration of two different industries that are now driving the country culturally and morally to the left. These include Hollywood, historically and even now the very center of cultural production in the United States related to entertainment; but also Silicon Valley, the high-tech center of gravity not only for the United States but arguably the world, and a sector in the enormously influential sector of the economy that is also decidedly driving left. Add to this the very highly populous and very influential university and college culture in California — just think of the University of California at Berkeley is in that sense an iconic institution — and you understand why California not only exerts such an influence but why that influence in terms of cultural, moral, and social issues, trends decidedly to the left.
Thinking of California as a barometer, therefore, of the culture, we need to turn to developments in just the last couple of days, even within the last few hours undertaken by a single solitary figure: the governor of California, Governor Jerry Brown. Now he is coming to the end of his second long-term in office. He was governor back in the 1970s, and now he is governor again, serving two more terms. One of the most interesting developments in terms of California is that in the 1970s Jerry Brown was decidedly the left wing amongst the very well identified left wing of the Democratic Party in that crucial decade, but now, even though Jerry Brown may have changed on some issues, the big issue is his continuity, and the fact that if you place him in this decade, also back in office for two terms, the big issue is that he is now considerably outflanked on his left.
Today, we turn to consider three different bills that came to the governor’s desk for signing; he signed one of them, he vetoed two others. Every one of these stories is important, but it’s also important to recognize only one of these stories is likely to get much attention. The story that is likely to get attention is the fact that the governor signed into law a measure that would make California the very first state in the union to offer a third gender option for California drivers licenses. That third gender option is going to be known as “nonbinary.” Now back earlier this summer, Oregon became the first state — also note it’s on the West Coast — Oregon became the first state to allow persons on their driver’s licenses to offer neither an M for male or F for female, but an X. But the state of California, it has gone further, actually identifying nonbinary as a legitimate gender option for California drivers’ licenses.
As CNN reported in its article,
“‘Nonbinary’ is the umbrella term for people who do not consider themselves either female or male.”
And the response to the governor’s signing was enthusiastic from the sponsor of the bill, Democratic State Senator Tony Adkins. She said
“I want to thank Governor Brown for recognizing how difficult it can be for our transgender, nonbinary and intersex family members, friends and neighbors when they don't have an ID that matches their gender presentation.”
She went on to say,
“I have dear friends in San Diego and around the state who have been waiting a long time for this.”
Now this is an interesting piece of legislation, it’s not all that shocking coming from California right now. It’s also an indication of what happens when a state says, ‘we’re not going to blind ourselves to male or female,’ even allowing persons simply to identify themselves in terms of their gender identity, we’re going to press on to a third option. It’s interesting to observe, even at this point, that just a third option will not do, at least not for long, but it’s also worthy of our note that the governor signing of this bill is likely to be reported in every form of the mainstream media. It’s going to make headlines across the country. This is the kind of new story that mainstream media simply can’t avoid, but it’s arguable that the bigger actions taken by the governor in the last few days had to do with two strategic vetoes rather than the signing of legislation. In the most important of these, Governor Brown vetoed legislation known as Assembly Bill 569. That bill, shockingly enough, would’ve removed a religious exemption from California legislation stating that employers can take no adverse action against employees concerning what was defined as ‘reproductive decisions.’ The legislative sponsor of this legislation is also from San Diego, that would be Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Fletcher. She offered the legislation, saying that it should be illegal for religious employers to discriminate against employers or to take any punitive action based upon what she defined as reproductive decisions. Immediately, what came to mind was abortion, and clearly that would’ve been included in this exemption, but the assemblywoman went on to say that she believed it should be illegal for religious employers in the state of California even to take any action, anything described as an adverse action, against an employee based upon sexual activity. Explicitly, she argued, that would include the fact that religious employers could take no action against an employee who had been involved in sex outside of marriage.
Just in terms of the legislation, some very important notes for those concerned to think from a Christian worldview. In the first place, you have the fact that the legislation was initiated and that eventually it passed both chambers of California state government and arrived on the desk of California’s governor. That’s pretty stunning in itself. But then you have the fact that the assemblywoman who sponsored the bill was emphatic and explicit about the fact that the target of her legislation was religious institutions. Now the background of that probably has to do with an event that happened in San Diego previously, and that was the fact that a faculty member at a Christian college in San Diego had been fired for becoming pregnant while unmarried. That’s simply unthinkable in terms of the new sexual morality. Furthermore, the Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco had been very vocal about the fact that he intended to maintain Catholic moral doctrine and teaching as an expectation for those who would teach in the Catholic schools of the San Francisco area.
Another interesting development is that the California Council of Churches, that’s an ecumenical very liberal group of mainline Protestant denominations in the state, not only did not oppose this legislation and recognize it’s clear affront to religious liberty, but they went on to state that it was in their interest to define religious liberty in terms of personal reproductive choices rather than the right of religious institutions to maintain their religious teachings. There’s more. Assembly Bill 569, that bill that arrived at Governor Brown’s desk would also have gone so far as to prohibit a voluntary contract between an employer and an employee that would in any way violate absolute reproductive freedom — and remember that phrase reproductive freedom was defined by the legislator herself as including any form of sexual morality, including constraints on sexual behavior outside of marriage.
One of the claims made by the revolutionaries — the sexual and moral revolutionaries — back in the central and latter decades of the 20th century was that Western civilization had been based in an historically Christian, what they called, ‘totalizing morality.’ By totalizing they meant it made absolutely total claims, claims that were comprehensive about every area of life. But here we simply have to note that this legislation is evidence of the fact that every system of morality is eventually a totalizing system of morality. In other words, every system of morality is eventually comprehensive, that’s what’s happening in terms of the sexual revolution and its new morality; it is now becoming totalizing, which means every single institution, every single organization, every sphere and sector of society has to give way. Most Americans will not know about Assembly Bill 569. They probably won’t know about the California governor vetoing it. They won’t understand just how close the nation’s most populous state came to an outright denial of religious liberty and came so close to making it illegal for a Christian organization, such as a Christian college or school or university, any kind of Christian ministry, to employ persons based upon very clear Christian convictions concerning sexual morality.
Major American liberal political figure shifts on political spectrum without ever moving
But as I said there were two significant vetoes by the California governor in recent days. The other one was his veto Senate Bill 169. That bill would’ve made the on campus sexual assault policies of the Obama Administration, the policies that were recently reversed by the Trump Administration, the law California, and it surprised many people, that Governor Brown vetoed the legislation, and as Reason Magazine noted yesterday,
“he vetoed the bill on explicit due-process grounds.”
What does that mean? It means that the Governor of California actually refuted the Obama Administration’s reading of how sexual assault cases are to be handled on university and college campuses. The reason why? Well, it reveals something very interesting. Governor Brown represents an old 20th century form of liberalism, a liberalism that is very based in an understanding of law and the fact that the great guarantor of human rights and human dignity is due process. Due process as defined by and as guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. The more recent liberalism is a liberalism that would abandon constitutional due process grounds and throw away those protections for individuals in order to press even further in the sexual revolution. So it tells us something very interesting, that Governor Jerry Brown of California, known in the 1970s as kind of a New Age figure — called Governor Moonbeam — was once the left wing of the Democratic Party, is now rather decidedly out of step with his own party, in his own state, a state he has served in two different decades as governor. But these stories also underline the importance of elections, it matters who is sitting at the governor’s desk to whom these bills arrive. No one will be really surprised that Governor Brown signed into law the bill concerning drivers’ licenses and gender. No big surprise there. But that’s the story that’s going to make headlines. The other two stories, well those two vetoes are not likely to get much attention, but just consider how close the state of California came to adopting both of those bills into law; one of them denying religious liberty, the other of them explicitly denying due process rights given to Americans under the U.S. Constitution. That’s the really big story here, a story you’re not likely to see in the larger media.
Why the issue of gambling is often overlooked as a major moral issue
Next, a big story, a big story about morality and the intersection of morality and scientific studies and of course government, comes from Great Britain. Patrick Kingsley reports about controversy over a particular gambling machine in Great Britain. The machine is known as a fixed odds betting terminal. The headline in the story in the New York Times,
“As Britain’s Gambling Problem Grows, Some Say a Machine Is to Blame.”
But the big story behind this isn’t just the machine or even the fact that a major moral issue here is being blamed on a machine, the story of the machine is also interesting. As Kingsley makes clear, this machine is particularly controversial because of what is suspected as its ability to entice persons to gamble, and to lose more and more money in an addictive pattern. But as the New York Times recognizes, the bigger story here’s the role of government, and in 2001 the government in place was headed by then British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his British academic David Runciman points out in this legislation back in 2001, the British government shifted from permitting gambling to allowing efforts to stimulate it because, of course, the government receives so much revenue from gambling.
The article points to the indications that this machine is particularly addictive. The report says,
“While researchers are divided on the subject, many gambling addicts say that the machines’ singular features make them uniquely addictive and uniquely harmful, both accelerating the rate of loss and decreasing the waiting time between bets.”
A former addict by the name of Jason Haddigan said,
“It’s a gamblers’ dream … You get the buzz straightaway and you get hooked straightaway.”
So here you have government, which is enticing its own citizens to gamble and lose more money because it provides income to the government, that’s bad enough, but as the story unfolds, it also turns out that Britain assured the population that if these kinds of gambling mechanisms were allowed, there would be adequate consideration and research to the kind of impact that the gambling forms are having, but it turns out that most of the people involved in the process are also involved in the gambling industry. In particular, the state recognized body doing the research has about half of its members drawn directly, in terms of its board, from the gambling industry. Furthermore, a great deal of the money funding what’s called the research in this case, the research that indicates a these machines really aren’t that big a problem, it also comes from within the industry.
One of the British citizens identified as struggling with gambling addiction ended the story by saying that these particularly controversial machines
“are just one part of a massive problem.”
How does he describe that problem? Here are his words,
“One part of the cradle-to-grave electronic gambling extraction business that is causing untold unhappiness in this country.”
That’s a pretty stunningly clear statement. He calls it a
“cradle-to-grave electronic gambling extraction business.”
But, of course, here you’re talking about a business that includes complicity and revenue to the government, which has a stake in this business, this extraction business, continuing unfettered.
We live in such a morally complicated age, there are so many issues pressing for our attention that big moral questions recognized as big moral questions in previous generations, often don’t get much current consideration at all, gambling is one of those issues, but we have to understand that that entire business is indeed a revenue extraction business, and when that business is made more accessible to people who just might be even more susceptible to having an addictive pattern and risking what they cannot afford to risk, well the government becomes complicit in that extraction business. It’s one thing for the government to be in the extraction business by means of taxes, it’s an even more morally problematic issue for the government to be in that extraction business and to call it simply business. During the now infamous Watergate hearings in the United States in the 1970s, the words, ‘follow the money’ were used over and over again. Why? Because rightly understood, if you follow the money you’ll find the morality.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website at AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to BoyceCollege.com.
I’m speaking to you from Raleigh, North Carolina, and I’ll meet you again on tomorrow for The Briefing.