Monday, November 23, 2020
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Monday, November 23rd, 2020.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Big Wins for Religious Liberty in Florida and the Sanctity of Human Life in Tennessee: A Reminder that Elections and the Federal Courts Matter
Decisions handed down by two US Circuits, that is federal courts of appeal, underline the importance of the courts and especially the importance of the courts in dealing with some of the most important issues according to the Christian worldview. The cases come from both Tennessee and Florida, and in the case of Florida, it was the 11th United States Circuit Court of Appeals, that by a 2-1 decision of the judicial panel sided with Christian counselors who argued that civic law is undertaken by the cities of Boca Raton and also by its larger county, Palm Beach County had violated their freedom of speech. And this has to do with the context of freedom of speech in the fulfillment of their responsibility as counselors, and in this case, as Christian counselors. As Jonathan Stempel reports for Reuters, "A divided federal appeals court on Friday declared unconstitutional to south Florida laws that banned therapists from offering conversion therapy to children, struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity."
And in this case, it was two therapists who took the case all the way to the 11th Circuit. Circuit judge, Britt Grant said that while enjoining the laws "allows speech that many find concerning, even dangerous, the first amendment, does not allow communities to determine how their neighbors may be counseled about matters of sexual orientation or gender." That's astounding language. It's extremely important language.
Here, you have a judge on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, who says that the First Amendment prevents communities, in this case, the city of Boca Raton and the County of Palm beach County from determining "how their neighbors may be counseled about matters of sexual orientation or gender." And again, that is a huge win for religious liberty. The specific ground on which the court made its decision was not religious liberty per se, but rather freedom of speech.
It was the speech of the counselors, in this case, their freedom of speech that was violated by this municipal and county ordinance in Florida, it is a big win. But when it comes to conversion therapy, biblically minded, gospel minded Christians understand that there is no ultimate rescue from any form of therapy. But we also need to recognize that what is referred to as conversion therapy by many, and what is covered in this ban in the city of Boca Raton and in the county of Palm Beach, what is called conversion therapy, is any effort to try to counsel a young person as to how to align their sexual identity with their biological sex and thus what a biblical understanding of human sexuality. That is, as these therapists made clear, in this case, the therapists were Robert Otto and Julie Hamilton, they said as Reuters reports that their clients typically had "sincerely held religious beliefs conflicting with homosexuality" and thus they were seeking counseling "to conform their identities and behaviors with those beliefs."
Now that is biblical Christianity. And here we need to recognize, specifically, that it is biblical Christianity that was thus outlawed by this municipal ordinance in Boca Raton and by the county ordinance, as well. It's interesting that the Reuters report cited the American Psychiatric Association as stating its opposition to conversion therapy, but we also noticed that the criticism leveled by the American Psychiatric Association is that any form of counseling that would seek to overcome homosexuality begins with the assumption that "homosexuality is a mental disorder." Now there's a sense in which that's absolutely true.
In the sense that according to a biblical psychiatry or a biblical psychology, it can never be mentally, psychologically, psychiatrically healthy to set oneself in opposition to God's word, not to mention the order of creation, but it's also very interesting to note a couple of other things. First of all, you see the American Psychiatric Association cited in this article as the ultimate authority in things therapeutic, but we need to notice that the very worldview that supports a biblical understanding of these issues begins with the understanding that it is not only that homosexuality is understood as a mental disorder, but speaking of psychiatry, it is very interesting to note that it was in a single meeting of the American Psychiatric Association that that professional association in the early 1970s, just surrendered to the gay rights movement, as it was known at the time.
Until that time, it was the American Psychiatric Association, itself, that declared homosexuality to be a mental disorder, and it switched that position in one meeting. Homosexuality went from being a mental disorder in the morning of that meeting, to being normal at the end of that meeting, in the very same day. Now if you call that science, you have a very strange understanding of science. And again, before leaving this, we need to recognize that for Christians, again, the basic issue is theological, the central issue is the authority of scripture and the power of the gospel, the power of the gospel, but also promises our progressive sanctification, the reality of our call as Christians to be obedient to every single word of scripture, and do the fact that yes, the defense of the freedom of speech and the defense of religious liberty, turn out to be the same thing, and again, we need to understand why.
The second court decision came in reference to legislation in the state of Tennessee. And in this case, it was a federal appeals court for the sixth circuit that upheld a Tennessee law that was signed into law by governor, Bill Lee, just this summer. And it is a so-called reason ban on abortion. Very fascinating. Let's pay close attention to this. And it's especially important when you consider last week's edition of the briefing that dealt with "The Last Children of Down Syndrome." The reason ban, as it is known here related to abortion, was the successful effort by the state of Tennessee to legislate that abortion was illegal in the state of Tennessee. If that abortion was to be sought for certain reasons.
Those reasons would include gender selection and also the elimination of Down's Syndrome. As ABC news reported, "A federal appeals court ruled Friday that Tennessee can begin outlawing abortions because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome, as well as prohibit the procedure if it's based on the race or gender of the fetus." The article continues by ABC news, "Tennessee Republican governor Bill Lee enacted the so-called reason bans earlier this year as part of a sweeping anti-abortion measure. The law gained national attention because it banned abortion as early as six weeks making it one of the strictest in the country, but it included several other anti-abortion components."
Now, this is actually more interesting and more important than many people will gain by looking at the headline, or even reading the article. Because as we're looking at abortion, we need to recognize that the pro-abortion movement has been arguing from the beginning that reasons don't matter, that all that matters is a woman's so-called constitutional right to an abortion. She doesn't have to give a reason. But you'll notice that that just doesn't work, especially as even the pro-abortion movement tries to describe abortion and why it fights restrictions on abortion all the way right up until now the moment of birth in some States, but claiming that the reason abortion would be sought at that point is entirely medical having to do with the life of the mother or some kind of horrifying diagnosis concerning the unborn child.
You'll notice their argument shifts depending on the case they are arguing. But what's really interesting is to note that accepted here is the presumption that there are women seeking abortions for the reason of gender selection or race selection, or because of the prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome. So what we have here is a genuine, unavoidable graphic and extremely revealing clash of worldviews. Nancy Northup, who is the president and CEO of The Center for Reproductive Rights, that's a pro-abortion group, she said, quote, "These bans are just another way anti-abortion politicians are attempting to limit the constitutional right to abortion care and to create stigma." She went on to say, "Decisions about whether and when to continue or end a pregnancy are best made by the individual and their family." Now, just thinking about this. Here, you have an abortion proponent saying that these bans are just another way to limit the constitutional right to abortion care.
Notice the language she's using there, abortion care. Notice, just remember, abortion is the intentional targeting of a baby in the womb to be murdered. Using the word care there is not only atrocious, it's morally abhorrent. But you'll notice also, this absolute statement that the woman and the woman alone, or in this case, the individual and their family, well, they're cited as the only influential meaningful units in this at all. But you'll also notice that in her language, she said that, "These bans are just another way to try to create stigma." Create stigma. We ended up talking about this from time to time, precisely because the abortion rights movement can't get over the stigma of abortion. It simply can't prettify abortion as anything other than what it is. No matter what it does, it can talk about a women's reproductive health. It can talk about the right to choose.
It can talk about abortion care, but at the end of the day, abortion will always come with a stigma because it is a violation of God's purpose in creation. It's a violation of life. Thus, there's no way that it can come without stigma. And those who keep insisting that the stigma is simply coming from the pro-life movement, have to deal with the fact that they can't drop the issue themselves by declaring that the stigma of abortion is wrong. An article in the Nashville, Tennessee, and by Mariah Timm's actually included this statement, "Reproductive rights advocates say these reason bans perpetuate harmful stereotypes about minority communities, and do not effectively act as support for people with disabilities." But here, once again, you're looking at an abhorrent confusion of the essential moral category. First of all, we're told that these bans on abortion for these specific reasons perpetuate harmful stereotypes about minority communities.
What's she talking about? Well, she's talking about what is an actual undeniable fact, and that is that there is a pattern of gender selection abortion throughout much of the world, and we now know in the United States as well. And in the United States there simply very little record-keeping. But what we know is that throughout cultures, especially in Asia, such as India and China, the situation is now so acute that those nations have decided to try to respond in some way because of the missing millions of little girls, because of the gender preference for baby boys. We're not just talking about a slight imbalance.
We're talking about millions and millions and millions of missing girls and young women, so much so, that many young men in the nation of China are described as broken branches because they will never get married. They will never have children and thus their family tree is a broken branch. But you'll also note that here is the complaint coming from these "reproductive rights advocates" that bans on abortion, for reasons of prenatal diagnosis of down syndrome "do not effectively act as support for people with disabilities." Again, absolutely abhorrent because implicit in this, is the fact that the right way to deal with this issue is to eliminate such children before they could be born.
Once again, the importance of the federal courts are underlined in both of these cases from Florida and from Tennessee. In this case, it was again a 2-1 decision by a panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. In this case, having to do with the Tennessee legislation, it upheld from Florida, a big win for religious liberty and freedom of speech manned from the state of Tennessee, a big win for the sanctity of human life. These did not come by accident. They only came because these judges were sitting on these circuits, these courts, ready to act on these cases as they came before them. You look at different judges sitting on these panels, you're going to end up with a different result. And again, in the very month of the general election in the United States, we are reminded that elections have consequences. And these two cases remind us of the scale of those consequences, indeed.
Do As I Say, Not As I Do? Why Personal Credibility Depends on Consistency
Then next on a completely different note, it's important to look at a flurry of headlines, having to do with figures, such as California Governor, Gavin Newsom, and New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, and for that matter speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi, and let's just call it inconsistency when it comes to the application of the very policies and regulations they have put in place related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, one of the things we see here is the necessity of consistency. Now, no human being's absolutely consistent in a fallen world, but we at least recognize we are called to consistency and blatant inconsistency undermines moral credibility. And that's exactly what we're looking at here. Let's look at two headline articles from the print edition of the New York Times in two successive days, the 21st and the 22nd. Headline coming from New York City, "Democratic leaders in New York city mingled at a party, few wore masks.
It was held just as officials were re-instituting virus restrictions and insisting on the wearing a mask, but evidently that was for other people. Not for these democratic civic leaders meeting in New York City who were caught on camera, and these days cameras are everywhere, mingling together at a birthday party without mask, or at least largely, without masks. Several of the people who criticize the leaders there in New York for saying one thing in public and mandating it for others while violating the same for themselves, they were referred to as members of the, quote, "Good for thee, not for me" set. But it's also in New York city that you had New York city mayor, Bill de Blasio, who actually had a stay at home order at one point just a matter of months ago, but didn't stay at home when it came to visiting his own gym because after all he is his honor in New York City, but he was caught not sufficiently embarrassed.
The big story about this kind of conflict is actually coming from San Francisco and it has to do with San Francisco Governor, Gavin Newsom but also with members of the medical establishment there. The headline in the New York Times, "Officials lavish meal out spurs outrage among Californians." Thomas Fuller, the reporter, tells us "It was an intimate meal in a wood paneled, private dining room, in one of California's most exclusive restaurants. No one around the table wore masks, not the lobbyists, not even the governor." The article continues, "Photos that surface this week of a dinner at the French Laundry, a temple of Haute Cuisine in Napa Valley, where some meals go for $450 per person, has sparked outrage in a state where democratic leaders have repeatedly admonished residents to be extra vigilant, among the biggest spike in infection since the pandemic began. Governor Gavin Newsom, who attended the dinner with his wife, has apologized calling it, "A bad mistake."
Well, there's a lot here. For one thing, let's just assume that COVID-19 has nothing to do with this. Even if COVID-19 weren't a part of the picture, here you would have the governor of the state of California, who supposedly is against government corruption, actually going to the lavishly expensive dinner, which is being held for the birthday of an extremely high priced lobbyists in the state of California. It turns out Governor Newsom is actually quite cozy with the lobbyists of his choice, but then most of us would be shocked to know that there is a restaurant in Napa Valley where it's about $450 per person just to eat the meal, that doesn't cover the other costs that are involved.
According to many reports in the media from California itself, the actual cost of having a dinner in this restaurant is going to be well north of $500. That's quite a dinner. But the big issue here is, of course, moral, having not so much to do with this expensive dinner, which the governor says he and his wife paid for themselves, but rather with the fact that they were telling everyone else to stay at home and furthermore to wear masks but they weren't wearing masks.
Now the issue here is not the specific question of appropriate or inappropriate COVID-19 restrictions. The point is the inappropriateness of hypocrisy at any time. Now, again, we, as human beings, are never completely morally consistent, but we need at least to be incredibly embarrassed when we are caught being inconsistent and the higher our responsibility, the more costly the inconsistency. And that's the point here? We're not just talking about someone who had been for mask wearing as a member of the general public. We're talking about the governor of the state who had been mandating the same. Interestingly, the New York Times reports, "The dinner party has put a spotlight on the governor's wealth and lifestyle. In a 2019 review of the French Laundry, and two other Napa restaurants, the New York Times critic, Tejal Rao, described being' overwhelmed by the opulence' and feeling as if transported onto a 'spaceship for the 1 percent, now orbiting a burning planet.'"
Very interesting words, but nonetheless, a very interesting place for the governor of California to be, especially the governor who is radically liberal. You'll notice that you have so many who are in that political class, who rail against the 1%, or for that matter, rail against even the middle class, but at the same time, they're the ones who are photographed having dinner with lobbyists at the French Laundry, without a mask. The Governor in California is also in a bit of hot water because even as he's been handing down policies concerning other people's children and their schools, his children are back in the classroom at an extremely expensive private school. Again, what's good for thee, is not for me. But there's something else in this article. We're told that the governor was accompanied by the first partner. Hmm. The first partner? Where's that kind of language coming from? Well, it's not coming from the fact that he's not married to a woman. He actually is.
But, of course, Gavin Newsom has been such an enthusiastic promoter of the LGBTQ agenda that as the mayor of San Francisco, he actually performed the first same-sex marriages in the United States, in defiance of law. And so he actually refers to his own wife as the first partner. And the media is going along, as well as his spokespersons. There's more than one way to subvert marriage, but any way you look at it, that's one of them.
Andrew Cuomo to Be Awarded Emmy for COVID-19 Briefings? Seriously? Even the Mainstream Media Recognizes the Problem
But then if this kind of issue isn't weird enough, the report came over the weekend that New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, is going to receive what is known as an international Emmy for his masterful COVID-19 briefings, daily briefings by the New York Governor.
And as Colin Dwyer reports for National Public Radio, he's been singled out for the international Emmy Founder's Award for his public addresses on the Coronavirus crisis as Dwyer tells us, "The International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced Friday that it is breaking with tradition and awarding its International Emmy Founder's Award to a real politician"—not to a character—"who's currently in office." New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, is being honored for his daily coronavirus briefings, particularly for 111 daily briefings, done earlier this year.
But here's what we need to note. The very same time that came out, The Washington Post ran an article by Helaine Olin with a headline, "Gavin Newsom, Andrew Cuomo, and the perils of pandemic stardom." Andrew Cuomo has tried to present himself as heroic, as a heroic governor, bravely fighting COVID-19 as the very liberal, very democratic governor of New York. But actually he is known, even in his state, as a ruthless politician and he's been anything but stellar in his leadership on COVID-19. It was he, who very early in the COVID crisis, tried to downplay it and encourage people actually to go on with their lives as usual. Then he hit the panic button and shut down much of New York State and got into a war with another very liberal Democrat Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City. But between them, they handed down all kinds of edicts and it was governor Cuomo who actually handed down an order that nursing homes must take in COVID-19 elderly patients.
And you can do the math on that. And this is the man that this international academy is now honoring with an Emmy Award, an International Emmy, it calls it, for his 111 coronavirus briefings. The point being made in the Washington Post article is that perhaps after the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced the award, the governor's not looking so good. As a matter of fact, he's receiving intense criticism, not only internationally, but right in his state, even coming from his own party, even coming from the mayor of New York City. The other point made in the Washington Post article is that in a recent press conference, on the issue of COVID-19, the governor lost his cool. He lost his temper. Speaking of the people in New York who actually caught the virus, he blamed them explicitly saying, "If you socially distance and you wore a mask, and you were smart, none of this will be a problem. It's all self-imposed. If you didn't eat the cheesecake, you wouldn't have a weight problem."
Now there you have it. Lots of compassion coming from Governor Cuomo. Even the Washington Post looked at both governors, Newsom and Cuomo, and described their arrogance as "a Marie Antoinette level of obliviousness." "Americans are at a breaking point. And instead of rising to the occasion, Cuomo and Newsom demonstrated contempt for the people they are responsible for governing." That's a rather amazing statement coming from the Washington Post.
You may remember that just a few months ago, it was the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, also very liberal, also from San Francisco, who was caught not wearing a mask or wearing a mask actually on her neck, as she was having her hair done, when all these things are not supposed to be happening at all at a local salon there in San Francisco. You may remember that the Speaker of the House had the audacity to claim that she had been set up by the owner of the salon who actually filmed the speaker.
But as J.D. Tuccille, of Reason Magazine, points out, "Maybe it was a set up. The salon owners and open critic of Pelosi and her pandemic restrictions but," the reporter noted, "A setup would be possible only because the owner could correctly assume the house speaker wouldn't flinch at violating widely publicized restrictions." Widely publicized restrictions that the speaker publicly supports, but privately, not so much. Now, in general terms, when it comes to moral hypocrisy and a lack of consistency, it is not a problem that is limited to any specific political party nor to the left or the right. Given the biblical revelation, we come to understand that it afflicts all humanity, but it is our responsibility as Christians to avoid it, when we see it to recognize it, and personally, to repent of it and to be embarrassed by it and to recognize that personal credibility does depend upon consistency. It always has and it always will.
There's a lot to talk about this week, but of course, it's Thanksgiving week and we'll be looking forward to talking about the Christian theology of biblical understanding of gratitude and Thanksgiving.
But as this addition of The Briefing comes to a close, I just have to wonder, how good is a meal that costs, let's say, $450. How good could it be? It does make you think.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can find me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/Albert Mohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com. For reservations at the French Laundry, well, I guess you can go to their website.
I'll meet you tomorrow for The Briefing.