Wednesday, September 9, 2020
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Wednesday, September 9, 2020. I'm Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Trump Administration Memo Calls for the End of Use of Critical Theory in Federal Government
Just a few days ago, on the 4th of September, Russell Vought, who is the Director of the Office of Management and Budget sent a memorandum to all the heads of the executive departments and agencies of the United States government. The memorandum began, "It has come to the President's attention that executive branch agencies have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to date training government workers to believe divisive anti-American propaganda." For example, according to press reports, said Vought, "Employees across the executive branch have been required to attend meetings where they are told that virtually all white people contribute to racism or where they are required to say that they benefit from racism." The memo went on to say that in some of these training sessions, claims have been made "that there is racism embedded in the belief that America is the land of opportunity or the belief that the most qualified person should receive a job."
Vought went on to say these types of "'trainings' not only run counter to the fundamental beliefs for which our nation has stood since its inception, but they also engender division and resentment within the federal workforce." He went on later to say, we cannot accept our employees receiving training that seeks to undercut our core values as Americans and drive division within our workforce. The bottom line is this, "The President has directed me to ensure that Federal agencies cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund these divisive un-American propaganda training sessions. Accordingly, to that end, the Office of Management and Budget will shortly issue more detailed guidance on implementing the President's directive.
In the meantime, all agencies are directed to begin to identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on 'critical race theory,' 'white privilege,' or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggest either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil. In addition, all agencies should begin to identify all available avenues within the law to cancel any such contracts and/or divert federal dollars away from these un-American propaganda training sessions."
The document concluded with a statement that the President and the administration are absolutely committed to "the fair and equal treatment of all individuals in the United States." Now what's going on here? Well, the press reported it rightly as it turns out that the President of the United States had ordered the executive branch of the federal government to cease and desist from any teaching or training dependent upon critical race theory, ideas of white privilege, and most fundamentally, teachings that the United States as a society, as a nation, as a government is inherently racist and thus must be replaced effectively. That's the bottom line when it comes to the critical part of critical race theory. It's a repudiation historically of the civil rights movement that called for a reform in the United States and is a far more fundamental call for revolution. That's the critique.
The critique goes to the very base of the American idea. At least one of the realities behind this is the New York Times's 1619 Project that basically argues that the entirety of American history and the sum and substance of the American experiment is based upon white supremacy and racism. That's the kind of ideology that the President ordered must cease and desist within the executive branch. Now let's just back up for a moment. What exactly is a memorandum addressed this way from the head of the Office of Management Budget? What's the role of that office? What is the federal government's role in all of this? And in particular, what's the role of the executive branch?
Let's just remind ourselves of some fundamentals of the American political and governmental structure here. It goes back to the Constitution. Just about every American child knows, or certainly should know that there are three branches of the federal government, according to our Constitution, the judicial, the legislative and the executive. Now here's something that most Americans don't know. The executive branch, the very basis of constitutional theory comes down to the right of the people of the United States through appropriate constitutional means to choose the chief executive. Now it's indirect through the electoral college, but it's directly tied to the vote and that's our basic constitutional order. But here's the thing that many Americans don't recognize, that means that every single individual holding a federal job in the executive branch works for the President of the United States. Now that's not true fundamentally, if they're working for the legislative branch. It's not true if they're working for the judiciary. It is true if they're working for the executive branch, which is by far the biggest employer when it comes to the federal government. And by that, we mean by far all the federal governments, the agencies, the very entities, the heads of which received this memorandum from Russell Vought, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Now management's a key word there because the OMB, as it is known in Washington, has a very important role through the executive branch of regulating the policies of the agencies, the entities, the departments of the federal government. The word budget's of equal importance, but you'll notice the title, the Office of Management and Budget, by the way, one maxim of leadership and organizational theory is that management and budget always go together. If you control the budget, you're actually controlling the management of the organization. The Office of Management and Budget became necessary when the federal government's executive branch, most importantly, what we might well call the administrative state, the giant bureaucracies of the federal departments, they became so large that some kind of central regulative body became necessary not only for budget, but also for management when it comes to these kinds of policies. But this kind of a memorandum is interesting for several reasons.
Number one, the document clearly states the policy established by the President of the United States, and he has the absolute right to set this kind of policy. That's the first thing. The President of the United States has said no critical race theory in the training and education programs of the executive branch, period. The second thing we need to note is that later in the memorandum, in about the fourth paragraph, Director Russell Vought wrote these words, "The President has directed me to ensure that federal agencies cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund these divisive un-American propaganda training sessions. Accordingly to that end, the Office of Management and Budget will shortly issue more detailed guidance on implementing the President's directive." So even as you have a very clear directive from the President here, the reality is that in the federal government and in the executive branch, the departments and all the bureaus and the agencies, it's going to take some time for detailed policies to be put in place that will actualize what the President here has ordered.
Now that means, thirdly, there's a very crucial issue here. This is a statement released by the Office of Management and Budget as directed by the President of the United States on the 4th of September of this year. On the 3rd of November, American voters will participate in a general election, which will include the election of a president of the United States, either Donald Trump, to a second term, or Joseph Biden, the democratic nominee to his first term as president of the United States. Everything will actually hinge on that election when it comes to this policy. If the President is reelected, then the Office of Management and Budget will assuredly go ahead with putting substance, skeleton, teeth, you might say to this policy.
If Joe Biden is elected president of the United States, this policy will effectively disappear. According to at least some press reports, the President had seen news coverage of this issue in which Christopher Rufo, Director of the Center on Wealth and Poverty at the Discovery Institute was cited arguing on Fox News that the President should end these programs immediately. Rufo told Tucker Carlson, the host of the program, "It's absolutely astonishing how critical race theory has pervaded every institution in the federal government. What I have discovered is that critical race theory has become, in essence, the default ideology of the federal bureaucracy, and is now being weaponized against the American people." Now, this is where the President evidently became actively alarmed, and that particular recognition led to the policy that was handed down by the OMB on September 4th.
It's interesting to step back and ask the question, why the timing now? Why was this being discussed on Fox News? Why did the President become so concerned about the issue now? Why did he send down this executive order? Why is the memorandum dated September 4th? Some people will say it has everything to do with the election, but I think in a larger context, it has everything to do with the fundamental questions being asked in the summer of 2020 in the United States with unrest. That's a calm word to use for it, on the streets of America, and a large controversy that is simply growing virtually day-by-day, about how the nation should rightly deal with the issue of race and concerns about racism in the United States.
And already there is a divergence here in this society, as I've described it on The Briefing, it is between those who say that to be an American is to know that this society can always improve. And those who say this entire society and culture is rotten at the base, you get to the bottom line of this society and it's white supremacy and racism, and thus it has to be undone, and that in accordance basically with a form of Marxist analysis. I think the President did the right thing here, but it's going to be extremely important that this policy be fleshed out in details otherwise it remains something of a statement of general intention. But the way the federal government works, the way any bureaucracy works, and this is the bureaucracy of bureaucracies, it will resist any kind of meaningful change unless executive orders are handed down that have specificity, that include implementation guidelines and the responsibility of every single agency and department of the federal government to report on these issues and punitive measures if the policy is contradicted or violated. And that just comes back full circle to the fact that everything on this issue and this particular policy will come down to what happens on November 3rd.
Northwestern’s Law Administrators Denounce Themselves: An Example of Critical Theory in the Academy
But next we'll shift to an example of what had concerned the President and is behind this policy. The Washington Free Beacon ran a news story in recent days by Chrissy Clark, with a headline, "Northwestern Law Administrators Confess Their Racism in Online Diversity Session." Here's the report. "Northwestern University Law School administrators denounced their own alleged racism in an online diversity training session. In screenshots taken of the virtual event, three administrators can be seen calling themselves racist and promising to 'do better,' including the law school's interim dean. 'I'm Jim Speta. And I am a racist,' the dean wrote. Another administrator called herself a 'gatekeeper of white supremacy.' The meeting was hosted by Associate Dean of Inclusion and Engagement Shannon Bartlett."
The report also tells us, "The meeting followed a letter sent out by the dean of Northwestern Law School, which outlined a commitment to 'anti-racism' in hiring and admittance practices. Three female law students who did not find the school's commitment sufficient, penned an op-ed attacking both Northwestern and University of Michigan's law schools for holding meetings without making substantive changes. The op-ed calls on the schools to address 'the absence of a critical race theory curriculum, and the general day-to-day racism we face from our peers.'" Now one of the things we just need to note here is that it is literally inconceivable that at Northwestern University's law school and at the law school University of Michigan critical race theory is not thoroughly heard, if not actively taught. It is certainly not the case that at most law schools, all of the professors are devotees and advocates of critical race theory, but all of them have to be extremely familiar with what's going on.
And among younger law professors, and not only the young, there is a leaning into critical race theory, which goes back now about two decades. And that means a lot of those professors are not only showing up as assistant professors, but are moving into full elected and tenured status. Anyone who remembers the Cold War and the larger context of the 20th century remembers the kind of forced confessions that were typical of communist regimes, not only internally as they dealt with dissonance, often just before the dissidents disappeared, but in terms of say American prisoners of war in North Vietnam, who were forced to go before cameras, they had done so in Korea as well, and offer orchestrated and scripted confessions. They all followed a certain kind of predictable line so much so that Americans weren't fooled into thinking that the confessions were real. And there's a sense in which you have to wonder if these confessions are to be understood as real, but nonetheless, they are orchestrated.
And as the Chicago Sun Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Northwestern's own news coverage has made clear, students in the university at large and particularly within the law school are demanding change. And that change is very clearly tied towards exactly this kind of agenda and what is called anti-racist training. That's very different than non-racist or even opposed to racism. Anti-racist has a particular meaning in this context that we'll have to talk about on a future edition of The Briefing in greater detail.
A Sign of an Insane Society: California Legislation Weakens Sex Offender Registration Law in the Name of LGBTQ Equity
But next we're going to shift to a very different issue and this should have the attention of all concerned Christians, not only in California, but far beyond, and not only Christians, but all citizens one would think. The issue at the center of this controversy is California Senate Bill 145. It's now been passed by the General Assembly and the Senate in particular has adopted this legislation. It goes now to California Governor Gavin Newsome and if he signs it into law as expected, it will become the law of California.
What's going on here? It has to do with whether or not those who are convicted of sex crimes against minors must be listed in a sex offender registry. Now revealingly enough, there hasn't been a lot of attention to this bill in the national media, but it has gotten attention in social media. Some of that is not very accurate. This is not a bill that decriminalizes sex with minors, either heterosexual or homosexual. In the state of California, having sex with a minor under the age of 18, even if you are a minor, remains a crime, sometimes a misdemeanor, sometimes a felony. But the point is that we know that sexual abuse and crimes against children and adolescent sex crimes are a massive issue in this society.
And so you would think that every single jurisdiction, including a state like California, would try to tighten its legislation so as to protect young people, but the state of California is poised to do exactly the opposite. This particular bill does not decriminalize or legalize adults having sex with minors, either heterosexual or homosexual. But what it does is send a very clear signal and it also weakens protections against all children and young people. That's the reason why there is a sex offender registry, and those who are sex offenders should be required to register, especially if they are sex offenders against minors. But what's going on here? Well, it goes back to California State Senator Scott Wiener. He's a Democrat of San Francisco. He's also openly gay and he initiated this legislation because he said the current California statute is discriminatory because it allows for a man who has illegitimate sex with a teenage girl, as young as 14 to be convicted of the crime, but not necessarily to be listed on the sex offender registry if he is within 10 years of the minor's age.
Now this is limited to heterosexual sex. Now I don't want to be graphic here, but this particular legislation is as awful as you might imagine. Now, State Senator Wiener said that's discriminatory because it does not allow a judge to have the same latitude in the case in which you would have a homosexual adult committing a homosexual act with what's defined as a consenting teenager. Again, the minimum age 14 and the offender who is the adult has to be within 10 years of the minor's age and it's not decriminalizing it, but it is saying that even upon conviction of the crime, the judge can have latitude as to whether or not the convicted criminal thus must be registered on a sex offender registry. Now just remind yourself, the sex offender registry is intended for the protection of the public and in particular for the protection of children and young people.
Now, I want to tell you right now that I cannot keep the decorum of this program and read to you the actual language of the California legislation. That is because it is so sexually graphic, but here's the bottom line. Senator Wiener successfully argued to his colleagues in both the California House and the Senate that it was discriminatory against the LGBTQ community, for the allowance to be made for the judge to have discretion when it came to an adult having heterosexual relations with a minor, if the judge would not have the same discretion and allowance, if you switch it from heterosexual to homosexual. And again, I can't even use the language explicitly in the legislation. Now, there were a handful of very brave legislators, including some that had been very supportive of the LGBTQ community who spoke up against this bill, but they were on the losing side thus far.
And the bill now goes to California's governor. In the name of LGBTQ equality, you have a weakening of the sex offender registry law in California. And again, it's because equity was demanded for those who would be arrested of homosexual acts in terms of these sexual crimes with minors. Now let's just understand the math. We're talking about minors as young as 14, and we're talking about adults who could be right up to 10 years older than the minor. So this could be right now, according to the law that stands right now in California, you could have a 14 year old girl and a 23 year old man, but pretty soon that could be a 14 year old boy and a 23 year old man, or you could change the genders, it doesn't matter. Heterosexual, homosexual, the judge would have the same latitude as to whether or not the convicted criminal must be listed on a sex offender registry.
Now, just think about this. At the very time this nation is supposedly getting more serious about dealing with sex crimes, especially against children and adolescents, you would think that at this time, the state of California would be moving to close this loophole rather than to broaden it on the basis of demands by the LGBT community for equity. That would be sense, but right now it appears that the demands of the LGBTQ community are moving in the opposite direction. And by the way, the LGBTQ activist community there in California is absolutely celebrating this as an advance towards LGBTQ equity. Just notice what's happening here. This is one of those moments we dare not miss. Another background issue here is the reality of what's called Romeo and Juliet laws in many of the states. Many states, which are attempting not to permanently criminalize and create a criminal record for teenagers who might be engaged in a sexual relation, they have created these Romeo and Juliet laws that either reduce or otherwise condition the criminal charges that will be brought against two teenagers.
But in most of those, the teenagers have to be teenagers. And when it comes to the older and the younger, there has to be something like only a three year window of age difference. But in the state of California, there isn't actually a Romeo and Juliet law on the books. Anyone who has sex with a teenager, including another teenager is guilty of some kind of criminal act, either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending upon the context. But when I heard what the age span was in this case, I was so shocked, I had to have verification. I looked at the California statute, and it appeared to offer that verification. I talked to Greg Bert, Director of Capital Engagement for the California Family Council, and he confirmed that what you're looking at in California right now is that for heterosexual sex crimes involving minors that fit this definition, there's that 10 year window. And now if this legislation has passed, that will be extended to homosexual relationships as well.
I just have to step back and ask what kind of sane society would allow the law that is currently in place in California and what sane society would say, let's expand that law to put even more children and teenagers at risk because of the fact that that is required by equity. What kind of twisted understanding of equity is that? In the midst of this debate, brave words spoken by at least some in the California legislature, including Assembly Appropriation Committee chair Lorena Gonzalez, who herself, a Democrat from San Diego. She said, this "Any sex is sex. I don’t care who it is between or what sex act it is. That being said, I cannot in my mind as a mother understand how sex between a 24-year-old and a 14-year-old could ever be consensual, how it could ever not be a registerable offense."
She went on, and as the press says, her voice cracking at times with emotion to say, "We should never give up on this idea that children are not, should be in any way subject to a preditor. And that is what it is…. Give me a situation where a 24-year-old had sex with a 14-year-old, any kind of sex, and it wasn’t predatory. Any example and I have yet to see it." Here's what's absolutely crucial. Lorena Gonzalez, that is the chairman of the state Assembly's Appropriations Committee, who said those words, she's a mother. That explains the words, but she has also been extremely highly rated by LGBTQ activists there in California.
In 2018, Gonzalez had been given a perfect rating by Equality California and its political action committee, but her action over the last several months in stalling the legislation, it did eventually pass, but her comments raising concern about the legislation in her official capacity as a member of the California Assembly, and as chairman of the Appropriations Committee has brought about now the wrath of Equality California. But when you think about it, we have a whole new definition of the kind of equality that Equality California is demanding. And at this point, successfully demanding. It is the equality of increasing the vulnerability of children and adolescents to sex crimes and the sex criminals in the state of California. That's exactly what this legislation comes down to. It is extremely telling that Camille Caldera, writing for USA Today, what's presented as a fact check column on this legislation included the words that "SB-145 changes the law to allow judges the same level of discretion over whether certain people must register as sex offenders for consensual...sex." And I'm not going to use the word she uses here, but homosexual and heterosexual.
The header at USA Today, "Legislation eliminates an anti-LGBTQ inequality in sex offender registration requirements." There it is. That's the new equality. If this legislation is signed by the governor of California, it will be the nation's largest state making children and adolescents more vulnerable by creating even more loopholes for judicial discretion and allowing more convicted sex criminals not to be listed on the California sex offender registry. That's all in the demand of equity.
One of the most amazing and shocking statements made in this USA Today report comes from Samuel Garrett-Pate, a spokesperson for Equality California. He said about the legislation, "It strengthens the registry by making sure that it's usable because the people on it are actually people who are a threat to society, not a high school student who made a mistake" A high school student who made a mistake, age 23, that's ludicrous, but it just might soon become the law in the state of California.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
I'm really excited about a class I'm going to be teaching at Southern Seminary. It's going to begin on October 8th. It's going to be Preaching and Preachers. We're going to be looking at some of the great preachers of the last several decades, figures who had ranged from Martin Lloyd Jones to John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, James Montgomery Boice, Sinclair Ferguson, and those who are preaching right now. We're going to be looking at about 20 preachers, and we're going to be watching, listening to one of their sermons. We're going to be understanding the preacher in context. We're going to be considering the preaching methodology, the homiletic that is behind this, the model of biblical exposition. We're going to be tackling some of the biggest issues in preaching these days, and we're going to do so through the fun of watching model preachers preach, and then considering what they tell us. And we'll include figures such as John R.W. Stott, you go down the list. It's going to be an incredible experience and there's still time to register. You register simply by going to sbts.edu/mohlercourse. That's simply sbts.edu/mohlercourse. I'm really looking forward to it. Hope I'll see you there.
For more information and resources, 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'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.