Monday, June 14, 2021
It's Monday, June 14th, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Welcome to the Brave New World of 2021: U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona Supports the Inevitable End of Women’s Sports
The way a moral revolution gains momentum is seen in the argument that was presented last week by the United States Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona. He announced that the Department of Education will now "step in to protect those students' civil rights." What's he talking about? He's talking about what CNN and ESPN and others are reporting as "transgender girl." That's the new language. The education secretary said they have a "right to compete." What he means is, they have a right to compete as girls. But of course, let's just understand that when we use the phrase transgender girls, we are already entering into the worldview of the transgender ideology. The noun here, "girls," is modified by the word "transgender." Transgender means they are biologically male, if they're identified as transgender girls, but they are claiming identity as female, as girls, and they're also claiming the right.
We're going to be looking a lot at the issue of rights today. They're claiming the right to compete as girls and against girls in interscholastic competition. Now, there are many ironies in this story. One of the biggest ironies is the fact that the Secretary of Education prior to becoming the US Secretary of Education in the Biden administration was the Commissioner of Education in Connecticut. And Connecticut is itself ground zero for many of the most glaring offenses on this kind of question. We have girls, biological females in Connecticut who are now seeking remedy in the federal court because they have been denied the right to compete only against girls in girls' interscholastic public school competitions in the state of Connecticut. We know exactly where the Biden administration stands on this issue, the moral revolution and the larger revolution itself. We know exactly where the secretary of education stands and this is where he announces the government of the United States of America shall stand.
In another ironic statement, the education secretary said, "I do believe in local control. I do believe in state control, but we do have a responsibility to protect the civil rights of students." Now, taking that out of the Orwellian doublespeak, it actually means I do not believe in local control. I do not believe in state control. I'm going to take control. When someone says, I believe in something, I believe in something, but I'm going to act otherwise, you actually find out what they believe. The secretary went on and said, "And if we feel the civil rights are being violated, we will act. Our LGBTQ students have endured more harassment than most other groups. It's critically important that we stand with them and give them opportunities to engage in what every other child can engage in without harassment." But you'll just notice that behind all that language is the fact that this means biological males competing with and against biological females in what are clearly classified, even legally as girls sporting and athletic activities and contests.
But the most important language in this article in terms of morality is the use of the word, right or rights as if it obviously applies in this case. The education secretary, speaking of these students said, "It's their right as a student to participate in these activities. And we know sports does more than just put ribbons on the first, second, and third place winner. We know that it provides opportunities for students to become part of a team, to learn a lot about themselves, to set goals and reach them and to challenge themselves. Athletics of the secretary provides that in our K-through-12 systems and in our colleges and all students deserve an opportunity to engage in that." Well, indeed the question here is not whether all students have a right to engage in the sporting activities of the public schools. The question is as to whether or not, and understand no previous generation of human beings has asked this question. The question as to whether or not it is society's right and responsibility to say that biological males should now be classified as females and biological females to be classified as males.
And the irony, the fact that the secretary's previous service was as Commissioner of Education in Connecticut, ESPN reports, "In 2020, four cisgender female high school athletes filed a federal lawsuit in Connecticut claiming it was unfair and discriminatory that cisgender athletes had to compete against transgender athletes. The lawsuit sought to reverse the state's interscholastic athletic conference's policy that allowed transgender athletes to compete based on their gender identity rather than their birth sex." Now, here's another moral test for us. Let's assume that we might bring someone from ancient history like, oh, I don't know, 1995 into the conversation. And this ancient person from 1995 would read this sentence. What would these sentences possibly mean to that person? Speaking of a quote cisgender female. Cisgender is an invented ideological term. It is a term that only makes sense if you buy into the LGBTQ ideology and the "T" in particular, suggesting that what you're looking at a transgender is just one variation in the norm of human variation and someone who is biologically female, who identifies as female also now has to play the game of identity politics.
But there's another reason why that ancient person from 1995, wouldn't be able to understand the logic of this sentence. It is because the language is purposefully evasive. Now, for example, you have the term cisgender female. That person from 1995, wouldn't even know what we're talking about there. What would cisgender female be? That would be what throughout human history in whatever language is appropriate has been referred to as a girl or young woman. It is intentionally evasive to use some other term, but then we're told that it is unfair and discriminatory that cisgender athletes, and again, that wouldn't even mean anything to someone just say, 25 years ago, it wouldn't make any sense at all, had to compete against transgender athletes. Now, again, is it because there is some transgender identity? No, it is a substitute innovation for the term biological male, otherwise known as boys or young men.
This is all a matter of ideological evasion. We're talking here about something that's easy enough to figure out ontologically, biologically. But this is a revolt against biology. It's a revolt against creation. It's a revolt against all moral sense. But the United States Secretary of Education said last week that the United States government is now buying into this, not only enthusiastically, but that the federal government will use the coercive powers that come with the federal government and with the intrusion of the federal government into state and local public school matters in order to enforce coercion with the new moral regime. That local control issue was brought up, as we showed by the secretary himself, when he said that he believes in it, except of course he demonstrates that he doesn't. The education secretary also said that he was going to be walking back clarifications of rules handed down during the Trump administration. That actually, by the order of the Trump administration increased the guarantee of due process and the normal norms of American law when it comes to accusations of sex abuse in a school setting.
When it comes to the moral revolution, it's now going to be ideological. When it comes to the moral revolution, this administration is making clear, it's ideological all the way down. But one of the key issues in this entire story is the use of the word rights, or right. As in, when the secretary says that there is a right, that's his word, it's their right for a biological male presenting as a female to compete as a girl, as a female against and with other females in athletic competition, when as we know biological males have an incredible advantage. And by the way, the case coming from, yes, you know it, Connecticut points to the fact that there have been a series of events in which biological males competing as females have won first place and have won championships and have displaced women and girls from those same competitions and from the winner circle.
And there's something else here, which is that this language used so rigorously in an ideological sense by ESPN is the language that USA Today apologized for not using when it allowed one of those young women to write an opinion piece, an op-ed defending her understanding as to why it was unfair for her as a girl to compete against biological males. In this case, you may remember just days ago, USA Today reedited the article and took the young woman's words out and inserted the transgender language because they said it is now morally wrong to use the word male when describing biological males. Welcome to the brave new world, 2021.
Is There a Hierarchy of Rights? Secretary of State Antony Blinken Argues That There Are No Fundamental Rights
But again, one of the key issues here is the use of the word, "right." Now, let's next shift to the question, what is a right? Who declares what is a right and what's not? Where are rights grounded?
We talk about this all the time on The Briefing, because we are living in the age of human rights. We're living in the age of what Harvard law school professor, Mary Ann Glendon calls rights talk, where everyone cloaks a moral clause with rights language. Sometimes this is quite legitimate, after all the declaration of independence represents rights language. But it's a very constrained rights language to use the terminology of Thomas Sowell, it is constrained rather than unconstrained. It is constrained for one thing by reality. The rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that's made very clear. And the grounding in the declaration of independence is in nature, in the creator who has endowed all human beings with certain unalienable rights. So those rights don't just exist as political entities, they don't just exist as ideas, they exist because the creator made human beings in his image and endowed every single human being with these specific rights.
But, you're now looking at a great confusion over what is and is not a right, and actually on the other side of the moral revolution, it is what is claimed to be a right, that isn't a right, that now takes precedence over what actually is a right grounded in reality. Now, this takes us to a statement that was made, a speech that was given by the United States Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken a matter of weeks ago. When he was announcing the release of the 2020 human rights report by the United States state department, the Secretary of State actually brought about a moral revolution of his own, or at least he made very clear that the Biden administration and the Secretary of State under his leadership is enthusiastically, unreservedly joining the moral revolution when it comes to these new rights. Rights which he says are actually on par with every other right.
It turns out to be an insane argument, but it was also an argument that was celebrated by the media and by the diplomatic class. Speaking of how under his leadership, the State Department would defend human rights, he spoke of the president saying, "President Biden has committed to putting human rights back at the center of American foreign policy. And that's a commitment that I, and the entire department of state take very seriously. We will bring to bear all the tools of our diplomacy to defend human rights and to hold accountable, perpetrators of abuse. The reports we're releasing today are just one way to do that." But the language gets really, really interesting. "One of the core principles of human rights is that they are universal. All people are entitled to these rights no matter where they're born, what they believe, whom they love or any other characteristic. Human are also co-equal. There is no hierarchy that makes some rights more important than others."
His next sentence says, "Past unbalanced statements that suggest such a hierarchy, including those offered by a recently disbanded state department advisory committee do not represent a guiding document for this administration." He said, "At my confirmation hearing, I promised that the Biden Harris administration would repudiate those unbalanced views we do so decisively today." Now, before going further, we just need to look at the ideologically loaded language. First of all, in one paragraph, twice, the US Secretary of State uses the word unbalanced. Now, if you're going to refer to something as unbalanced, you mean that there is a balance that has been forfeited, has been undone, now the situation is unbalanced. But in this case, the secretary uses that word twice without offering any sense of what he actually means by balance. You might say he's trying to catch the audience off balance, but what he explicitly repudiates is the fact that there is any hierarchy of rights.
Well, that's very interesting. It's a part of the language of the modern rights regime, which is a part of modernity, the modern age, and has come with the recognition that there are many rights. The question is which rights are fundamental to other rights, which rights are higher in terms of priority. You actually have here the Secretary of State of the United States of America saying it is wrong to believe there is any ranking or any hierarchy. Well, what's really at stake here? Well, what's really at stake here is what took place under the Trump administration. It's an ongoing ideological controversy between the right and the left in the United States. Between conservatives and liberals. Sometimes that comes down to between Republicans and Democrats. These days, it's basically the same lines. Under the Trump administration, the then Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo put together a commission to look into unalienable rights and to make recommendations to the state department and thus to the US government about which rights were most fundamental.
That commission and the former Secretary of State argued that the rights that are clearly expressed within the US constitution, those rights that are clearly declared in the declaration of independence are the most basic rights and that would include religious liberty, freedom of speech and of course, you also have the right to property. That's all included within the rights enumerated in the declaration and in particular, in the bill of rights of the US constitution. But notice the combat of our current cultural moment, you have newly invented rights. Let's just say a woman's so-called right to an abortion Roe V. Wade, 1973. You have newly invented rights, such as say, the right of two men to be married, as in the Obergefell decision, 2015. Let's say that you have right after right after right that isn't in the bill of rights, certainly wasn't in the declaration of independence, isn't imaginable as even been thought of by those who framed the constitution. But it's those newly invented rights such as the so-called right to same-sex marriage that is now displacing fundamental rights, such as religious liberty.
Now, the very fact that I use that phrase fundamental rights is established in American constitutional law. A fundamental right, for example, according to the law of the land, according to the Supreme court of the United States is a right upon which other rights depend. It is also a right, the abridgment of which requires a very strict scrutiny from the federal government and from the courts. It is an especially important, especially fundamental, especially protected, right. The Secretary of State here said that he doesn't even believe in fundamental rights, except his administration will go into court and argue for fundamental rights, violating and contradicting its own policy here when it suits their purposes. But this is a really huge issue. This is one of the most important moral and worldview issues we will face in our lifetimes.
You have the Secretary of State going on to say, "Human rights are also interdependent. If you can't assemble peacefully, how can you organize a union or an opposition party or exercise your freedom of religion or belief. If you're denied equal access to a job or an education because of the color of your skin or your gender identity, how can you attain health and wellbeing for yourself and your family." Wait just a minute, gender identity got slipped right in there as if it belongs. Well, how is the United States then going to relate to countries and that would be at this point, the majority of countries on earth that do not define gender as does now, the ideologically driven government of the United States of America. Does this mean that a country that still thinks that biological males are male and biological females are female is now a human rights abuser. That is exactly the agenda behind this kind of declaration. That's exactly the agenda that is now very much in the driver's seat in the Biden administration.
You don't have to wonder where this leads, it leads right to the pride flag, flying on the American embassy in the Vatican, bigger than the American flag. It leads to the United States government putting its influence behind the right of abortion, as it is now declared by the Biden administration to be a right just as important, just as fundamental, just as urgent as any other right, including freedom of religion. You can just go down the list and understand exactly where this is going. In the same speech that was given by the Secretary of State, he championed abortion. Of course, it came under the euphemism, a woman's reproductive health, announcing that under his leadership, under the mandate of the Biden Harris administration, the United States government, the department of state will be doing everything to raise issues of gender, sexual identity, gender identity, same-sex marriage, reproduction, when it comes to contraception and abortion, all the rest.
But as at this point, there is a bigger context to which we need to give some attention. How in the world is it that you could say that all rights are basically equal, that all these rights have equal moral claim on us? How in the world would that be expressed in anything other than a speech that might be given here by the US Secretary of State? Let's look at something that's a lot older than the Biden administration. Let's go back to 1948. Let's go back to the formation. The formative years of the United nations, when the United Nations is trying to develop a statement that will be universal on human rights. It was adopted by the United Nations on December the 10th, 1948. It is known as the universal declaration of human rights. It's supposed to be the guiding constitutional statement of the United Nations when it comes to understanding what is and is not a right and how the affairs of nations are to be determined as to whether or not a government, a regime is actually in compliance with human rights.
This is supposed to be the guiding statement. It starts out with all kinds of very lofty language, "Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world. Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts, which have outraged the conscience of mankind and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people." They went on with several, whereases and then said, "Therefore, the United Nations is adopting this universal declaration of human rights." Well, the United nations, supposedly speaking on behalf of the entire civilized world is putting its reputation on which rights are rights.
Is Vacation a Universal Human Right? How about Social Security? A Look at the 1948 United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Well, what are those rights?
Article One begins exactly where you think it ought to begin. "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood." Well, that's gender specific language, isn't it? Brotherhood rather than brotherhood, sisterhood, humanhood, whatever now is the language that you can possibly use. The second article is also very expressive of something we believe to be right. "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration without distinction of any kinds such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political, or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent trust, non self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty."
What does all that complicated language mean? It means, going back to 1948, that someone born in a communist dominated country under a totalitarian regime should be understood as actually inherently ontologically having the same rights as someone born in a modern democracy. That's something we believe to be true. Of course, the big challenge in 1948 is still the big challenge in 2021. It's one thing to declare it to be true, it's another thing to make it to be true. But the point I want to make about this is that you are here looking at a declaration of what are supposed to be universal human rights, basic to all human beings everywhere throughout all time, with the authority of the United Nations. Article Three, "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person." So good so far, a lot of this sounds lie it has come right out of the declaration of independence and the U S constitution. Not as good as the American language, but still aiming at more or less the same thing.
Well, the fact is however, the articles go on and on and on. By the time you get to article 22, the United Nations declares as a universal human right that, "Everyone is a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization through national effort and international cooperation. And in accordance with the organization and resources of each state, to the economic, social, and cultural rights, indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality." Seriously. Now we're told that it is a universal human right to be understood as belonging to human beings throughout all time, until time shall come to an end, we shall have a right to social security and the free development of our personality. What exactly does free development of our personality mean? We've gone from the right to live. We've gone from the right to worship. We've gone from the right to assemble. We've gone from freedom of speech to the freedom of the free development of our personality.
But article 24 goes further, declaring to be a universal human right throughout all the world and throughout all time, "Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay." So now you get to see the point. The United Nations trying to come up with this universal declaration, couldn't stop with anything that makes sense throughout space and time. Anything constrained by, and grounded in reality but instead says at one and the same time, putting all these rights on the same level, the right to live and the right to an adequate number of vacation days is the same thing. Now, the United States Secretary of Education, but following a new moral regime is declaring the same nonsense.
But there's another even darker side to this and that is that it never works out, that all these rights are treated as equal even by the people who say they're treating them as equal. And that's why given the demands of the moral revolutionaries, it is the enumerated constitutional right of religious liberty that is now we are told, going to have to give way to the newly invented right of the sexual revolutionaries, right? So just same sex marriage, but go all the way down to the right of a biological male to compete as a female in girls interscholastic and intercollegiate sports, that we are told is now a right. A right that the United States government is going to say is equal to the right of religious liberty, and yet it is religious liberty that will have to give way to this newly invented artificial right.
It reminds me of the classic from George Orwell's animal farm, where it is declared that all the animals are equal, but some of the animals are more equal than others.
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.
Today I'm in Nashville, Tennessee, and I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.