The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

It is Tuesday, February 28th 2023.

I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

The New Morality Collides with Religious Freedom: San Diego Evangelical Church Under Fire for LGBTQ Comments While Renting Public School Space

Most Christians in the United States sense that the terrain around us is shifting. Every once in a while you have a news story that hits very close to home. And home in this case is San Diego, California, where that city is the home to many churches, many faithful gospel churches I’m glad to say, in a massive city that includes, as I discovered while being here, that there are 100,000 college and university students just in the San Diego area. But also in San Diego is an evangelical church that meets in a public school, rent space from the San Diego Unified School District, in this case Marshall Middle School.

But here’s the headline that ran just recently in the Los Angeles Times. It tells us a great deal about where we stand and, frankly, Christians, wherever Christians are found in the United States in particular, should pay very, very close attention to this news story. The headline, “Church’s LGBTQ Talk at Public School Stirs a Feud.” So now you have a feud in the San Diego area over what happened at an evangelical church meeting at a public middle school in rented space on a Sunday. So what exactly happened?

Reporter Kristen Taketa of the Los Angeles Times tells us, “On the first Sunday of this month, the pastor of a Scripps Ranch church brought in a guest speaker who talks about how she came to believe being gay is wrong.” Now that’s the lead to the story, and you can understand why it would have a great deal of attention almost anywhere in America these days, or at least would have the potential to do so. But in particular on a coastal situation such as San Diego and in this public middle school, in rented space, this turned out to be a very big story indeed. As a matter of fact, I think this is a far bigger story than most Christians in the United States might yet recognize.

The report goes on to tell us, “The venue was San Diego Unified’s Marshall Middle School, where the church is held its services for the better part of two decades. The speaker was Patti Height of Out of Egypt Ministries who told her audience she used to consider herself gay, but now believes that was a ‘false identity.'” The paper goes on, “According to her website, her work aims to help Christians minister to LGBTQ people, believing that being gay is incompatible with being Christian.” The pastor of the church is Jack Hawkins and we are told that he had founded the Canyon Springs Church 25 years ago, so a quarter of a century ego. He started the church and said he had hoped, “It would start a conversation that would lead to healing and show his members how to better love their LGBTQ neighbors.”

But as the story unfolds, “The event has ignited calls from some parents and activists for San Diego Unified,” that’s the school district “to end its years-long rental agreement with the church, leading to questions about what lines, if any, school districts or other public agencies are allowed to draw when it comes to providing space for religious and other community organizations.”

So this is the classic kind of head-on collision between two different worldviews that we know is happening and is absolutely almost certain to happen community by community, church by church, institution by institution, as we pass through very tumultuous cultural change. And that cultural change is being driven by progressives who are very straightforward in wanting to overthrow the prevailing morality. Now, before long, they may actually represent the prevailing morality, and that’s something important for Christians to understand. The prevailing morality doesn’t necessarily mean the true morality or the authentic morality, especially when it comes to what is revealed in Christian truth.

But it is simply a matter of fact that the prevailing morality in Western civilization has been really, really clear about the normativity of heterosexuality in general, in heterosexual marriage in particular, and that is now considered by so many in the culture. And of course this is the big issue in the gender and sexual LGBTQ revolution, but also the larger revolution against fixed moral norms and objective truth, what we’re looking at here is an intentional effort to redefine the prevailing morality.

Now what’s really clear in this article is that those who are on the progressive side believe not only that their morality should be the prevailing morality, and they’ve been working hard at that. The cultural elites have been drilling down deep with that. The forces of this kind of progressive revolution have been pushing very hard at that. And as you know, with tremendous success. So much success that they have basically conquered Hollywood. They have conquered higher education in America. They have conquered the cultural elites and what has been referred to as the commanding heights of the culture, but now they are going after an evangelical church that actually dares to hold to a biblical understanding of gender and sexuality, and then dares to rent space from a public school.

Now here’s where a little bit of legal background might be helpful. There’s some really clear legal precedent in the United States about how public school systems, for example, if they decide to rent their property to outside and community groups, how they might or might not be able to restrict the speech that takes place on their facility under this rental condition. As a matter of fact, there is very good legal precedent in the United States, at least for now, that if a school district decides that it will rent its facilities to community groups, it cannot then dictate what can and cannot be said in that setting, as the facility is rented by a group that has free speech rights. And when it comes to a Christian congregation, not only free speech rights, but free exercise of religion rights.

But now you have this collision in the culture and that’s changing everything, and here’s what you need to know. You had this church, meeting as an evangelical congregation in rented space. They had an invited speaker who came in, and that invited speaker dared to speak about homosexuality as a problem that should be overcome. It should be overcome with sensitivity, it should be overcome with understanding. But it was a very clear statement that she believed that her LGBTQ identity had been false. And she also understood that God’s plan, from the beginning, is that human beings made male and female are to relate to one another in a pattern of heterosexuality. And in particular, in the institution of marriage.

The paper didn’t go so far as to indicate the comprehensiveness of her presentation. But it certainly made clear that the stumbling block, the scandal when it came to the larger culture, was that she dared to speak out and the church dared to host her to speak out, in a way that contradicts the new morality that is now being not only forced on the society, but coerced throughout the society, by the moral progressives.

Their argument becomes clear when we read this section of the report, “Scripps Ranch residents and Marshall Middle parents are among more than 600 people who have signed a petition calling for San Diego Unified,” that’s the school system, “to terminate its rental agreement with Canyon Springs, contending that the church is violating the district’s anti-discrimination policy by endorsing anti-LGBTQ speech. A Marshall Middle parent filed a complaint with the district, also asking the district to end its contract with the church.”

Now here’s where the situation gets really interesting, and Christians had better pay some very close attention. Because this isn’t just about this church and it’s certainly not just about this speaker, and it’s not just about this school or even this school district. What you have here is a classic example of the collision that is now impossible to avoid between two different worldviews. Two worldviews that are separated not only by degree, but two worldviews that are separated by their central affirmations and their central denials. They are almost a mirror opposite.

Now what these citizens and parents have called for is the evangelical church to be kicked out of the public school because it was offering a message, that by the direct speech of the complainants, made clear, they saw the school as speaking a very different message than the church. But that’s the reason the church is the church and the school is the school. And if the school system has decided that they will rent properties, they then have no right to tell the churches renting the properties what they can and cannot say.

All Christians understand what a monumental precedent this kind of story is, because the way this turns out, and I mean by that not only what happens in the school district and eventually whatever happens in the court, but what happens in the court of public opinion, that has a very great deal to do with the future of our society and with the freedom of Christians in any context to hold to a biblical understanding of sex, marriage, morality, gender. You go down the list.

Now the report indicates that there was a response from the school district that is incredibly troubling, “San Diego Unified is reviewing Canyon Spring Church’s rental permit to see whether the district’s facility rental policy was violated, District spokesperson Samer Naji said in an email. The policy says school facilities cannot be used by a group that illegally discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or gender expression, among other characteristics.”

Now it may turn out that the spokesperson simply spoke irresponsibly and that the school board backs down off of that position. It had better because it is in direct conflict with the Constitution of the United States of America. Here you have a spokesperson for a school district in the public schools in San Diego, California, saying that they are going to investigate whether a church renting its facility, just like other community groups can rent the facility, in order to determine if the church has violated the school’s inclusivity and diversity policy.

By that argument, anything taking place in a public school has to be consistent with whatever are the policies, including the so-called non-discrimination policies, of the local school. And that would limit not only the speech of this church, but just understand very clearly, it would put parents, Christian parents, in the position of violating school policy for holding to historic Christian understandings of sex, morality, marriage, et cetera. So we really are looking at one of the big collision points in our society, and in this case it comes down to one middle school in the city of San Diego. More importantly, it comes down to one evangelical congregation meeting in that middle school building.

Prominent legal scholar Eugene Volokh at UCLA’s School of Law, he has a lot of experience speaking to these issues. He said, “The answer’s open and shut. The school district cannot constitutionally discriminate based on viewpoint in its decisions about whom to rent things to.” Now Professor Volokh said there’s one exception, and that would be if an organization used a facility for speech that doesn’t fall under free speech protections. And the professor gave, as an example, a group that would try to use and rent public school facilities, and then seek to foster or to advocate violence. That would not be protected speech. But when it comes to religious speech, that is the classic example of protected speech, constitutionally protected speech.

Part II

Hard Coercion and Soft Coercion Are Both Forms of Coercion: Considerations on Possible Outcomes in Religious Liberty Battles Ahead

But here’s where I want to step back and say, okay, there are several ways this can go off the rails, but in any of these situations, it’s a reminder to us of what is at stake and it’s an alarm going off in our society. So just pay attention and let’s understand the alarm, first of all. But let’s also understand what might happen. Well, the school district might or might not try to go ahead and kick this school out, based upon the school district’s non-discrimination policy. It might do that. Depending on how that turns out, the church might decide to appeal legally and it might go to the courts. My assumption is, I think Professor Volokh is very right here. The situation really is open and shut when it comes to the courts.

But those are not the only two options or even the only two avenues of options. There are a couple of other options that might actually be more likely, and both of these certainly demand our attention. Let’s consider another alternative, let’s call this alternative number one. The San Diego School District could decide that it is simply going to end its policy of renting its facilities on non-school days and non-school hours to community organizations, including churches. Now at least at present, the school district could not get by with saying, “We’re going to rent our facilities to community groups but not to churches. We’re going to draw the line at churches.” That is not constitutional. There’s plenty of court precedent to make that point.

But it is also clear that some school districts looking at this kind of situation, will say, “We’ll just forego all the income,” and frankly, will continue to compromise the public part of what we describe as the public schools, by simply saying that these buildings that belong to the public will not be available to the public, even when the schools are not using them.

But you’ll notice that there are some school districts that are so averse to having Christian congregations in those schools, they’ll basically adopt a policy saying, “We won’t let the school buildings be rented by anyone,” just to prevent churches from having that access. And we see that already in several major cities, and in particular some of the major cities in the very secular or increasingly secular Northeast of the United States, but elsewhere as well.

But then there is a second alternative. Let’s call that alternative two we need to watch, and that is simply that the schools or the rental authorities find a way to make it more and more difficult for churches or community organizations, but here we’re concerned about churches, to rent the facilities and actually to use them. So you might say that there’s a difference between hard coercion and soft coercion, but at the end of the day, they are both forms of coercion.

It’s also interesting to note one other development in this story that’s already available to us in this report, the principal of the school made a statement. The article tells us, “Marshall’s principal, Josh Way, stressed to school families in a letter the day before Height’s talk that the church’s beliefs do not reflect the school’s.” So isn’t that an interesting development?

Now you have the principal of a public middle school writing a letter preemptively to parents, even before the talk has taken place, saying that whatever the speaker was going to say, and there was probably already advertised controversy about it, that’s clear, that whatever the speaker was about to say, what she was about to say does not reflect the moral stance of the school.

Now what does that tell us? Well, most importantly, it tells us that here you have a middle school principal admitting that his school is taking a moral stand. It is drawing a moral line. It is making a moral argument. But here’s where we need to know that this public middle school principal, no doubt reflecting the public school policy in the area, is actually saying that the school is taking a moral stand that is directly contradictory to historic biblical Christianity. Well, there you have it. How’s that for a wake-up call?

The principal’s letter went on, and the report concludes with this, “Way,” that is the principal, “noted that the San Diego Unified School Board passed an LGBTQ resolution in June that commits to honoring student pronoun and name change requests, allowing student Genders and Sexualities Alliance clubs, having gender-affirming spaces at schools, training staff about gender identity and sexuality and more.” I’ll simply say at this point, two of the scariest words in the English language are those last two words, “and more.”

Part III

Gen Z is Driving the Sexual Revolution: Unprecedented Numbers of Young People Identify as LGBTQ — What is Behind the Shocking Spike?

Just as the weekend began, USA Today ran a frontpage article with a very large headline, and this turns out to be a story that also demands our attention. The headline, “Gen Z is Driving LGBTQ Identity.” The subhead, “Numbers among adults doubled in recent years.” Susan Miller is the reporter for USA Today. Now the numbers here are crucially important, and USA Today frankly kind of underplayed the number story here because it really wants to just trumpet the fact that there’s a significant increase in LGBTQ identity and that it’s being driven by Generation Z. And at this point all we can say is, boy, is it being driven by Generation Z.

The simple aggregate number, according to this report, Gallup’s very much behind it, is that 7% of adults in the United States identify as LGBTQ. Now 7% is an astoundingly large number, because just a matter of a couple of decades ago that number would’ve been something like 2% or even less than that. So that tells you something about how moral change is taking place, just on the question of LGBTQ identity.

But the big number here is not the seven. The seven’s an aggregate number, and this would include many different generations born at different times in different decades, but it is a consideration of those who are now living who are defined as adults. But that’s a pretty broad category and it reaches not only those who are very old, it reaches those who as adults are very young. And boy, do the numbers explode among the very young. Frankly, these numbers really haven’t been seen before, at least when it comes to public attention.

Listen to how these numbers roll out. The Gallup survey of 2022 data also shows that the number of US adults who identified as LGBTQ,” 7.2%, “has more than doubled in a decade. In 2012, Gallup found that 3.5% of US adults said there were LGBTQ. That number,” we are told, “surged to 7.1% in 2021 before holding roughly steady last year.”

But here’s where the numbers simply cry out at us. When you consider the numbers, it’s not just the increase or even just the doubling of the aggregate percentage, because as you look at this, well, USA Today gets to the point, “The key takeaway from the annual poll in recent years has been the growing presence of Generation Z,” that is young adults, particularly those 25 and under, “in embracing new identities, an indicator that is,” we are told, “likely to continue.”

Here’s the astounding data, as we look at the breakdown of these generations, “For Generation Z, those born from 1997 to 2004, 19.7% identified as LGBTQ in the poll, which was based on aggregated data of 10,000 people.” Now let’s just hold on a minute, 19.7%. Well, anyone who knows how you round numbers will understand that’s rounded up to 20%. That means one out of five. Now I want to say two things. Number one, that is simply astounding. And number two, I don’t think it is possibly true. And by the way, there’s other data coming out on the very same people, the very same generation, telling us that when it comes to actual sexual behavior, it doesn’t look this extreme.

That doesn’t take away the fact that this number is extremely troubling, because for one thing it is telling us that whether or not these persons will over time truly demonstrate themselves to be LGBTQ or to hold onto that identity construct, the important thing to recognize is that at least, at this point in their lives, they are identifying that way. They’re identifying themselves that way, and that tells us something extremely important. It might be about social contagion. There’s good reason to believe that’s part of it. It might be about the psychotherapeutic construct that is so reshaping the way that young people think about themselves. That’s no doubt part of it.

It might be the energy of identity politics, and one way to gain a certain amount of status is to identify in a way that associates you with a so-called protected class. That might be part of it. But we also have to concede, we need to recognize and just say out loud, this really could be an indicator of just how fast moral transformation is taking place in our society and in a progressive direction. Overthrowing virtually all constraints upon sexual morality and gender identity constraints that have been not only deeply rooted in Christianity in a biblical worldview, but constitutive of Western civilization. And it’s simply a matter of fact that it’s hard to understand how that same civilization can be perpetuated if the moral conditions are completely upended and reversed.

We’ll have to take one last look at the numbers again. Generation Z, born ’97 to 2004, 19.7% identified as LGBTQ. Among millennials, those born ’81 to ’96, 11.2%, so that’s roughly just about half as much. By comparison, 3.3% of Generation X, that was supposed to be a morally transformative generation, Generation X, but they have only identified as LGBTQ at something like 3.3%. Among baby boomers, it’s only 2.7%.

Now this raises a host of other questions, so let’s just consider them very quickly. Number one, is this actually an increase in people who are same-sex attracted or in some way engaged in same sex-sexual behaviors? That’s not abundantly clear. Is this a matter of some kind, as I said, of social contagion? Is this a matter of some kind of popular idea passing through the society? We don’t know if that’s the case either, although we suspect that both of those things are probably playing a role. Is this just a matter, as the LGBTQ activist would claim, that previous generations were repressed, to use a Freudian term. That they would’ve identified as LGBTQ if they had not been oppressed for doing so or feared such oppression? Well, that’s the argument you’re going to hear as well.

But I don’t want those arguments to obscure the sheer shock of the numbers, because even as we look at these things basically all the time, these numbers really are astounding. And astounding is not even the right word maybe, even troubling isn’t enough. There’s also, and we should note, a moral claim made at the end of this article, Cathy Renna of the National LGBTQ Task Force says young people are blazing trails, “Who we are is rooted deeply in us and is something young people, growing up in a culture that has finally been able to tell them that they aren’t alone, that they are beautiful and perfect exactly as they are, will never turn back from now.”

Now we just need to note, she’s saying something that she may or may not believe is true. We can just stipulate that evidently she probably believes it’s true. That doesn’t make it true, but she is making a very clear statement, almost a word of prophecy, that this kind of pattern, that this escalation in numbers, is something from which people will now not turn back from. And that we simply have to say, that may be true, but only time will tell.

And we’re going to have to be watching very closely, because we’re not just concerned about this question as an issue. We’re not just looking at it as an ideological and political, cultural, moral challenge. We’re looking at it with concern because these numbers point to very real human beings, every single one of them made in God’s image, and made to live out God’s purpose in their lives for God’s glory.

That’s the really troubling thing here, and that’s why we must pay attention to this issue, not just because we care about the culture, but ultimately, let’s remind ourselves of this, because given the biblical worldview and the gospel imperative, we care about the people. There will be a lot to talk about this week from the State of California as indicative of the big challenges facing Christians wherever we live.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to

I’m speaking to you from Orange County, California, and I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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