Thursday, June 10, 2021
It's Thursday, June 10, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
The Department of Justice Says It Will “Vigorously” Defend Religious Exemption for Christian Institutions, But What Is the Biden Administration Actually Up To?
One insight into how things actually work in Washington, D.C. is that sometimes they are almost the opposite of what they appear to be and that is the case with the headlines coming out telling us that the Justice Department is now going to say that it will vigorously defend the right of Christian institutions to operate on Christian principles when it comes to a current federal lawsuit. The story requires some unpacking. The current federal lawsuit is known as Hunter v. U.S. Department of Education. The man behind this in many ways is Paul Carlos Southwick. He has brought cause against the Department of Education charging that the department's exemption for Christian colleges and universities when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues is unconstitutional.
The Biden administration seems to take the same position as Mr. Southwick. The Biden administration in support of the Equality Act of which it is chief champion has not allowed for any religious exemption. So why is it that the Biden administration's Justice Department would say that it is going to defend the current federal law? Why not allow the Christian colleges and their representatives to do this, to make the case? The answer is the Justice Department is really arguing that it will take this role in defense of federal law so that it will not be defended very vigorously at all. The announcement that came yesterday tells us that the Justice Department is arguing that it and it alone will defend the Department of Education's current policy that includes that exemption in the federal courts.
What the Justice Department is really doing is saying that it does not want to allow attorneys for the Christian colleges and universities to be able to make the case themselves. The Justice Department went so far as to use the word vigorous, as in vigorously defending the law. But there's very good reason to believe that behind this is a very vigorous attempt to do exactly the opposite, or at the very least, to subvert the arguments that might be made by the Christian colleges and universities if they represented themselves in the arguments before the federal courts. What is this exemption? It's an exemption for Christian or for religious colleges and universities when it comes to the application of Title IX, which we are now told includes gender identification and sexual orientation as protected categories.
Unless this exemption holds, no Christian institution that is taking federal student aid funds will be able to continue to operate on Christian principles on the basis of a Christian biblical morality, say just the definition of marriage. This issue came to the fore. We all saw it coming. The Chief Justice of the United States and Justice Samuel Alito in the oral arguments for the Obergefell decision that legalized same marriage raised the alarm. In that case in dissenting opinions, and in further cases, conservatives on the high court have warned lookout. The religious exemption is right in the middle of the bullseye. Taken at face value, the legalization of same-sex marriage when it intersects with federal non-discrimination laws means that Christian colleges will no longer be able to operate on Christian conviction.
The question that was raised by the Chief Justice and also by Justice Alito had to do with whether or not, for example, a Christian college or university would be required to house same-sex couples presenting themselves as married just like any other married couple that would fit the biblical definition of marriage. In other words, the colleges would have to abandon their biblical understanding of marriage. You might recall that the then Solicitor General of the United States who does represent the United States from the Justice Department, then it was the Obama administration, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli answered the question it will be an issue. Well, of course it will be an issue. It's an issue right now, and right now, this very same administration is seeking to force a college in Missouri, a Christian college, to abandon its convictions when it comes to its housing on campus precisely as the Chief Justice had warned.
Now, you have the very same administration saying that it will vigorously defend the exemption in the law. Now, behind that is something we just need to note, and that is that under any normal circumstance, it is the constitutional responsibility of the United States Department of Justice to seek to defend the laws of the United States. In this case, that exemption has the force of law. But there is really a bigger drama here and that drama here is what is going on behind the scenes. Why is it that the Biden administration that has sought to eliminate these exemptions with the Equality Act, that has sought to eliminate these exemptions when it comes to say even just one Christian college, university there in Missouri, what is the administration up to in this case? Well, it's interesting.
For one thing, the administration's being criticized by the left, but it's the left that doesn't understand what's going on. For example, a headline in The Independent, a London newspaper reports the issue this way, "Biden under fire for defending Christian schools in anti-LGBTQ+ case: 'The government is aligning with hate.'" Gino Spocchia reports, "Joe Biden is facing criticism from LGBTQ+ rights campaigners after his Justice Department backed federally funded Christian schools in a discrimination case. In a court filing in Oregon, the US Department of Education informed a court that its interests were identical to faith schools discriminating on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity." "It continued," says The Independent, "by offering its backing for Christian schools to be exempt from federal laws banning LGBT+ discrimination. The schools in question are funded in part by the US government."
Paul Carlos Southwick who is the man who brought the case against the government, he is against the exemption for Christian colleges and universities. He said, "What this means is that the government is now aligning itself with anti-LGBTQ hate in order to vigorously defend an exemption that everyone knows causes severe harm to LGBTQ students using taxpayer money." Well, of course, we're going to argue that it is not true that everybody knows that because it is profoundly not true. But nonetheless, what is true is that the Biden administration through the Department of Justice says, "It's got it. It's got the case. Don't worry about it. It will vigorously defend the exemption." But at the same time, all the signals are being sent that the reality is exactly the opposite.
It's also very interesting that the clarification of what the Biden administration's actually up to in the Department of Justice also comes from the left. In this case, it appears at Slate and the author of the article is Mark Joseph Stern, the headline, "No, the Biden administration isn't betraying its support for LGBTQ rights." Here's what Stern tells us, "On Wednesday, the Department of Justice told a federal court that it intends to defend a federal law that allows private religious colleges and universities to discriminate against LGBTQ students." "At first blush," Stern writes, "The DOJ's filing and Hunter v. Department of Education may seem surprising. President Joe Biden has after all promised to promote LGBTQ rights, including the rights to all students to receive an equal education."
Now, just put that in actual terminology about what it means in this case. It means the Biden ministration wants to deny the exemptions that would allow Christian institutions to operate on Christian principles. The article by Stern continues, "But the Biden administration's move, in this case, Hunter, should not be interpreted as a betrayal of these values. The Justice Department is not only following its general obligation to defend federal laws, it is also trying to prevent a Christian organization from taking over the defense and mounting extreme arguments that could lead to a devastating subversion of civil rights law." "Biden's progressive supporters may be offended by the DOJ's defense of discrimination, but the alternative is almost certainly worse."
Well, there you have it. That's the only plausible explanation, the Biden administration is not reversing course. It is simply preventing a Christian organization from having its own representatives to make the case before the federal courts because the Biden administration doesn't want those arguments on behalf of the Christian colleges made on the terms that those colleges would make the arguments. It wants to make a very different defense through the Department of Justice and we know what that means. It's right here candidly. It is the fact that it really wants to weaken the exemption, if not to defeat it, by controlling the case for it in what arguments are actually made before the federal courts.
Later in Stern's article, he tells us, "Why then is the Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities so eager to insert itself into this litigation?" Now, remember that's what's going on here. These Christian colleges wanted to represent the case themselves, to have their attorneys argue the case, but they would have made far stronger arguments than the Biden administration's Justice Department will make. The arguments made by this Justice Department might actually be not only as strong as those Christian colleges might've made the arguments, they might actually be arguments intended to subvert the exemption to make it more likely the court would strike it down.
Answering his own question as to why the Christian colleges through their own organization might want to make the case, he said, "The likely answer can be found elsewhere in the filing, 'which makes sweeping arguments about religious schools' right to discriminate the Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities declared its intent to establish that the Title IX exemption is not only lawful, but is constitutionally required'." Well, that's also extremely revealing. I think Stern's absolutely right. The Justice Department did not want these Christian colleges to be able to make the case in the federal courts that the exemption is not only allowable, but rather it is required by the Constitution in order to honor the Constitution's explicit guarantee of religious liberty.
As we began, there's a lot more to this story than meets the eye, and that's why you have confusing headlines about what the Justice Department of the Biden administration is actually up to. What it's up to is continuing the effort that it has declared from the beginning, that the President made clear when he was a candidate, that he is not going to honor these religious exemptions, and now his Justice Department isn't even going to allow these colleges and universities to make the case on their own behalf.
The Global Effort to Remove Legal Obstacles to Abortion: Toxic Ideas Don’t Just Stay Local, They Go Global
But next we're going to shift from Washington, D.C. to Europe where a headline in The Guardian, a liberal newspaper in London tells us that some government ministers from at least five European countries are now making a public case that the continent should remove absolutely all legal barriers to abortion. As Liz Ford of The Guardian tells us, "Government ministers from five European countries, including Belgium's Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, are among 29 politicians, healthcare and women's rights activists who have signed an open letter calling for the removal of all legal barriers to abortion."
Now behind this is something that many Americans might find surprising, but if you do look at liberal European countries and they are very liberal, socially liberal in just about all issues, they are extremely liberal in the main when it comes to Western Europe and morality about sex, marriage, you go down the list, they are extremely liberal when it comes to many other policies, including euthanasia. We'll be talking more that even today. But when it comes to abortion, here's what's crucial for our understanding. Liberal Europe is far more conservative in the main in its laws on abortion than the United States of America. There is nothing quite like the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 in Europe. In most European countries, there's a very clear time limit on when a woman can obtain an abortion. Once that time is eclipsed, there is no possibility of legal abortion in those European jurisdictions.
But in the United States, of course, we are looking at the fact that it's explicit in states such as Illinois, Rhode Island, New York, that there basically is a right to abortion by the declaration of those states and their governments all the way up until the very moment of birth. That's how anti-life America's culture has become. But in Europe, the situation is not quite there. But what are these particular signatories looking for in this demand? We're told, "The letter signed by gender and equality ministers from France, Canada, and Norway and international development ministers from Sweden and the Netherlands states that women's right to safe legal abortion is being eroded by misinformation and attacks on services. It calls for the reopening of abortion clinics closed during the pandemic. The signatories, 'say abortion should be regarded as an essential healthcare service and call for a global campaign of factual and unbiased information so women and girls know their rights and understand their options'."
At least much of the impetus behind this letter is a movement known as She Decides. Well, what we're looking at here is a concerted effort and it is global. That's what needs to capture our attention. There is a global effort to try to remove all legal obstacles or restrictions upon abortion. You see this in the United States. You see this in the logic of the pro-abortion movement here. You see this now in the logic very clearly in many states. I mentioned just three of them, Illinois, New York, Rhode Island, but it is also very much now the entrenched orthodoxy of the Democratic Party. But throughout much of Europe, you now have the fact that you're looking at many national jurisdictions, but you're also looking at the fact that there's an ever more encompassing European government that claims to have the right, at least to inform European nations of what they will define as human rights in order to bring the laws of those nations into accord with the European pattern.
The European pattern is now more conservative than the American pattern. The question is, how long will that last? You'll notice that the logic is also global. We talked on The Briefing in recent days about the fact that toxic ideas don't stay localized. They become globalized. You see that right here in this case. You see the same arguments that appear regularly among pro-abortionists in the United States, becoming the very arguments that appear from the pro-abortionists in much of Europe. Now, there are nations that aren't buying this logic, at least not yet, but it is very interesting that where you have a pattern of social liberalism and of the radical secularization of the culture, you basically begin to subvert any kind of moral impulse, moral conscience or objective morality that would say the life of the unborn is to be protected at any point.
You also notice the way this kind of argument is now being recast in language. The letter says, "The foundation of a fair and equal world for women and girls in all their diversity is the right to decide about their own bodies. Every woman everywhere has the right to a safe legal abortion, maternal and obstetric healthcare, comprehensive sexuality education and contraception." Now, just notice all this being demanded there, but the most interesting thing to note, the most morally central issue for us to note is that what is declared here as the right of abortion means the killing of an unborn human infant and that is described here as the demand of an equal world for women and girls in all their diversity the right to decide about their own bodies.
Notice who is absent from that equation, it is the unborn child at all. This shows you the increasing nature of the fact that these arguments are just ignoring the fact that there is even an unborn child in the equation. It's as if abortion is equivalent to a tonsillectomy, nothing more, nothing less. But then again, there would be more legal and moral scrutiny if we were talking about a tonsillectomy in many jurisdictions. Here, we are talking about the intentional strategic killing of an unborn child. Here comes the demand, there should be no legal barriers to that abortion whatsoever anywhere but starting in Europe.
The Evidence of Liberal Religion and Comprehensive Secularism in Great Britain: Are Religious Brits Really in Favor of Euthanasia?
But next, we're going to stay in Europe. But in this case, we're going to go to Great Britain where a headline tells us, "Poll finds majority of religious Brits favor assisted dying as rabbi leads new euthanasia alliance." This is coming from a Jewish newspaper there in London telling us, "The majority of Britons believe religious leaders should not stand in the way of assisted dying according to a new poll." We are told that this news comes "as an alliance of faith leaders chaired by Rabbi Jonathan Romain has formed today to challenge religious arguments against assisted dying." Something to note here, before we go further. Here, you have reference to an alliance of faith leaders.
Now, sometimes that is used irresponsibly, but unintentionally is just a way that journalists who don't know much about religious leadership, they simply try to put it all together under the term faith leaders. But in other cases, as in this case, it basically means just a generic form of religion. It means that these people are just leaders of different faiths. Don't worry. There's no truth in any of them. It doesn't really matter. It's all a matter of tradition. But in any case, don't worry, there are no real theological barriers to euthanasia, physician assisted suicide, so-called good death as is now demanded by increasingly secular societies.
Now, what makes this story a particular importance is because it is seeking to make the argument that religious leaders shouldn't stand in the way of assisted dying, we're told, and again, the first sentence is extremely interesting, "The majority of Britons believe religious leaders should not stand in the way of assisted dying." Now, notice what it doesn't say. It doesn't say that the majority of British religious leaders believe that they should support euthanasia. It doesn't say that. It's a very clever statement here. It's the kind of statement that doesn't actually reveal much, except it reveals that the people who are now holding the poll that's being reported on here are clearly for euthanasia.
There's a political background in Great Britain because Parliament voted overwhelmingly six years ago to reject what was known as the Assisted Dying Act. It was because we are told, "Leaders from all religions, including Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, campaigned against allowing doctors to help the terminally ill end their lives." We're told here that according to this YouGov poll, only 22% of people belonging to a faith believe religious leaders should have intervened in the question, 70% of those identified as non-religious believe that the religious leaders were wrong to have intervened. Remember, all this is being released by what's being presented as a coalition of faith leaders, "The new religious alliance supporting assisted dying comprises members of Judaism, the Church of England, Quakers, Methodists, Unitarians, the United Reform Church, Muslims, Catholics, and those from Baptist and evangelical backgrounds."
Well, we need to take a closer look at this because what we are really seeing here is not evidence of any kind of religious conviction at all, but rather evidence of the absence of religious conviction. We're really talking about the residue that is left behind when liberal theology takes over these religious organizations, denominational bodies and organized religions. But there's something else here, and that's what's looming in the background and that is this, in our increasingly secular society, the holdouts who cannot merely reduce human life to something like a mathematical equation or an actuarial chart in an insurance office, the people who can't go along with the commodification of human life and with the idea, the ideology of the culture of death, they are people who are driven by a theological worldview.
That theological worldview begins with the fact that we are neither naturalistic accidents lost in the cosmos nor are we merely those who have life because of some evolutionary process. So if you believe in a God, in monotheism and you believe in human beings as his creation, then you also have to agree that we are not given the right to declare when we shall live and when we shall die and the terms under which we may live and the terms under which we may die. That is an essentially godless, it is an essentially secular worldview that is glaringly apparent there. We'll be taking a closer look at this development in Great Britain, but I can already tell you in advance what we're going to find. We're going to find that what you were looking at here is the evidence of liberal religion. What you're going to be looking at here is the rejection of the actual teaching of the historic churches and religious organizations that are cited here.
Yes, of course, you can find a Roman Catholic somewhere who will tell you that he or she supports euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, but the Roman Catholic church officially doctrinally teaches against it in emphatic terms. The same thing is true when you identify Baptists, Methodists, Evangelicals. When it comes to this fact, the Christian tradition because of the authority of scripture tells us that we are not the Lords of our own life. We did not create ourselves. We are not sovereign over our own lives and over our own deaths. God is. But if nothing else, this reminds us that when you're looking at secularization, it secularizes across the board and changes the entire worldview. It's not just abortion. It's not just the LGBTQ issues. It is also euthanasia. It is more. It covers a far larger range of issues. Indeed, it will eventually be comprehensive because if God does not exist, then there is no objective morality in any arena of life, period. If there is a God and we know there is a God, we don't decide these issues, he does.
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'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.