The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Thursday, June 8, 2023

It is Thursday, June 8th, 2023.

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

Part I

Medicine, Morality, or Law? Florida District Judge Halts Florida Law Banning Trans Hormone Treatments for Children and Teens

Our attention is drawn towards courtrooms and the reason is simple to understand, that’s why there are so many courtroom novels, so many courtroom dramas, movies based in courtrooms, it is because in courtrooms, the basic human drama of good and evil, right and wrong, true and false are often played out. There’s a huge question, however, when we ask ourselves whether it is the issue of medicine that should be decided or medical treatment that should be decided in a courtroom, in a courtroom of law.

That issue comes to mind with a recent decision by a U.S. district court judge in Florida, in this case U.S. District Judge Robert Henkel, who, just days ago, handed down what’s known as a preliminary injunction against Florida’s law that places a ban on transgender affirming care for children and teenagers, defined here as the transgender affirming care for minors.

As the judge handed down his decision, he also rendered a verdict. He rendered a medical verdict, he rendered a moral verdict. At least insofar as the judge’s decision or order stands, we are looking at a face down over the huge issue of whether or not minors or the parents of minors for that matter, should be able to choose hormone and eventually even surgical therapy or care or surgical treatment in what’s defined as gender-affirming.

So much to unpack here, but this judge made the unpacking incredibly important by some of the arguments he used in getting to the delivery of his order. In handing down his order, Judge Henkel called Florida’s law “an exercise in politics, not in good medicine.” Now, that’s a very significant clause arguing that Florida’s law is again, listen to the words, an exercise in politics, not in good medicine. Now the reason that becomes even more interesting and informative, the reason why it’s so important is for us to recognize that it is the responsibility of a federal court judge not to rule on either politics or medicine, but rather on the law.

And here we see the collision of all of these issues and it is the language used by this judge, it is the logical framework in employed by this judge that really does demand our attention. In handing down his order, the judge said, “The plaintiff’s adolescent children will suffer irreparable harm, the unwanted and irreversible onset and progression of puberty in their natal sex,” that means birth sex, “if they do not promptly begin treatment with GNRH agonist,” that’s a technical term for the hormone treatments.

He went on to say, “The treatment will affect the patients themselves, nobody else and will cause the defendants,” the defendants include the Surgeon General of Florida, Joseph Ladapo, the Florida Board of Medicine, the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine, other state leaders, “The treatment will affect the patients themselves, nobody else,” said the judge, “and will cause the defendants no harm. The preliminary injunction will be consistent with, not adverse to the public interest, adherence to the Constitution is always in the public interest.”

Now that last sentence is incontrovertible, Adherence to the constitution is in the public interest, but was this an order actually adjudicated by the Constitution of the United States? A closer look at some of the language used by the judge indicates that there should be deep concern here. The judge, in his order, 44 pages of length by the way, on page three of his order, he gets right to the point when he argues under Roman numeral 3: “Gender identity is real.”

Now, back up a moment, we don’t have any question as to whether or not gender identity is real, but what he means is gender identity is separated from biological sex. He’s arguing here that it’s just an incontrovertible fact material to constitutional interpretation and the law that what he defines or the LGBTQ movement or the psychotherapeutic industry describes as gender identity says it’s real.

Here’s what he went on to say, “With extraordinarily rare exceptions not at issue here, every person is born with external sex characteristics, male or female, and chromosomes that match. As the person goes through life, the person also has a gender identity, a deeply felt internal sense of being male or female. For more than 99% of people, the external sex characteristics and chromosomes, the determinants of what this order calls the person’s natal sex, match the person’s gender identity.”

He continues, “For less than 1%, the natal sex and gender identity are opposites. A natal male’s gender identity is female or vice versa.” He went on to say, “This order,” meaning his own order, “refers to such a person who identifies as female, as a transgender female and to such a person who identifies as male, a transgender male. This order refers to individuals whose gender identity matches their natal sex as cisgender.”

Well, we need to pause for a moment just say to say, the word cisgender is an invented word that means that a biological male identifies as male and a biological female identifies as female, which is to say that in no previous age of human existence was such a word as cisgender, either meaningful or understandable, not to mention necessary. But he goes on and makes the argument in even sharper form, remember, this is a U.S. district judge making an argument. He is a lawyer trained in the law. He is a judge sitting in a federal court. Here’s what he says, “The elephant in the room should be noted at the onset, gender identity is real. The record makes this clear.” Now, most likely in this context, the record means the record or the dicta, all the documentation provided by those who provided evidence in the court. “The record,” he says, “makes this clear.”

The medical defendants speaking through their attorneys have admitted it, at least one defense expert also has admitted it. But my point in raising this issue and pointing to this order and to this judge is to point out that this is basically a medical judgment, but we also need to note that when he refers to the record, when the judge refers to the record, he is referring to arguments made largely by those representing medical associations, the therapeutic community, et cetera.

And here’s one of the problems in terms of the transformation of modern law, this is one of the great issues that has reshaped the courts in, I believe, a very dangerous direction for the course of the last say 100 years in the United States. You have judges who are actually making declarations that are not according to the Constitution, not according to law, not according even to legal reasoning, but more clearly based upon their own interpretation of another profession’s provided data. In this case, medicine.

Now remind yourself that the reason this case got before a federal district judge is because at least some parents went to federal court saying that Florida’s new law restricting or banning hormone and surgical treatments for minors, related to transgender issues, these parents went to court saying that this violated their parental rights.

Now, I think all of us would admit that that question of parental rights is eventually a legal and a constitutional question, but it is really important to note that this judge is basing so much of his decision not upon the law of the Constitution, but rather upon his assessment, his judicial assessment about the current state of what he defines as medical practice and the science when it comes to the transgender claims. As an authoritative statement, he refers to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition, that’s DSM V.

It establishes the clinical criteria for transgender issues related to gender dysphoria, et cetera. But here’s something we need to know, that has been from the very beginning, incredibly ideological. It has been driven by ideological and political agendas, most clearly in the early 1970s when the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association both just completely turned upside down their understanding of homosexuality related to psychology and psychiatry, and they did so under what everyone admits was concerted political pressure. It was a matter of votes, not a matter of what these days is simply invoked as the science. It was a matter of how many delegates were put into a room who would vote the way what we would now call LGBTQ activists demanded.

The judge also said, “There are well-established standards of care for treatment of gender dysphoria. These are set out,” he says, “In two publications. First, the Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Gender Dysphoria and second, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.” No kidding, that’s WPATH, “Standards of Care version eight.” He says, “I credit the abundant testimony in this record that these standards are widely followed by well-trained clinicians.”

Now, once again, we’re in medical territory here and here you have a judge making what is presented as a legal decision, but based upon what he cites as medical evidence, and there is also a selectivity in terms of this medical evidence, but let’s argue on behalf of the judge for just a moment. Not for long, but for just a moment.

He is not wrong when he says that you’re looking at the medical professions coalescing around the affirmation of hormone and surgical treatments for those identified with gender dysphoria. That is one of the lamentable realities of our age, the extent to which the elites lead this transformation of society and the therapists and the medical doctors, the medical communities, the professional associations, they’re very much a part of those elites and those elites are following the same ideological path.

The judge isn’t wrong about the direction these medical professions are headed. He’s just wrong to think that it’s the business of a federal district court to rule on a question the legislature has decided, and the governor signed into law, on a matter that is indeed not so much decided in this case on legal and constitutional terms, but on the judge’s personal assessment of what he thinks is the credible medical consensus. We’ve now reached a point in this country where you have states that say that this kind of hormone treatment should be legal and some who say it should be illegal when it comes to minors.

Surgical treatment, most states at least say that that would be inappropriate for minors, but not all states will make it a matter of legal concern that this should not happen to minors. As you look at the divide in this country, and as you look even at this particular order handed down by a federal district judge, we are looking at a culture war playing out in the courts, but Christians have to remind ourselves, we’re also talking about very real human beings whose lives will be, well, let’s just say, affected by the result of this kind of jurisprudence.

This is not the end of the story, the state of Florida is certain to appeal this judge’s order. The judge, by the way, as you’re just thinking about the political ideological worldview context, was appointed, nominated to this role by President Bill Clinton back in the 1990s. All of this really does fit together and it’s important for Christians to understand exactly how they fit together.

Part II

For the PGA Tour, Money Evidently Speaks Louder Than Morals: Merger With LIV Golf Comes With Big Moral Questions

But next, let’s go to the issue of golf. We haven’t talked about golf recently on The Briefing, because it is not usually a matter of frontline worldview concern. It is now, and that’s because of the announcement made just this week that the PGA, the Professional Golf Association tour is now joining with the LIV tour or LIV Golf as it is known, and you have two groups that have been in court at each other in the court of public opinion, slugging it out.

You have two groups that have basically anathematized the other, but now comes the announcement that they are of course combining into one entity. And the big moral story behind this has to do not so much with the shape of the organization, but the source of its funding, which is going to be overwhelmingly from the Saudi Wealth Fund and in particular, from Saudi Arabia and specifically the royal family.

As Alan Blinder of the New York Times wrote, “The new company, which came together so quickly that it does not even have a name beyond NewCo, as in new company, will be controlled by the PGA Tour, but fortified by Saudi wealth and shadowed by the kingdom’s reputation for myriad human rights abuses, including its treatment of women and the 2018 murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”

Now, here’s the historical background, Saudi Arabia, of course, after World War II in particular, gained so much wealth from the extraction economy, particularly from petroleum, and it has been investing that over the long haul in a wealth fund, which is intended to keep the kingdom very wealthy even after the end of an extraction economy. That is to say when the petroleum runs out, when the oil runs out.

The Sovereign Wealth Fund has been rather assertive across the world and in particular, has been picking up trophies such as major sports franchises, including a soccer team in the United Kingdom and now establishing this LIV Golf organization and international tour. That international tour, by the way, with its own tournaments and LIV Golf as an organization, they offered enormous financial incentives for golfers to leave the PGA and go to the LIV Tour.

But LIV Golf was associated with the Saudi money and it also made some changes in the way the tournaments were organized, and the PGA responded in moral outrage that the organization would compete with the PGA and that it would be represented by so much Saudi money and thus they said it is an immoral organization, and the PGA and its officials continually pointed to the Saudi Wealth Fund in the background as the major moral problem.

Well, you can see what the problem is now, the problem is now that evidently the money spoke louder than the moral claims, because the PGA is now saying it is merging with LIV Golf in order to create something that’s so new all they have for it right now is NewCo, for new company. But what is new is going to be the fact that that Saudi money is going to have a major say because it’s going to be the major source in the funding behind this massive new project of professional golf.

Now, one of the things Christians need to understand is that whenever you have something with the power, the cultural power of something like professional sports, you have the temptation, the opportunity, and indeed eventually the realization of all kinds of wrongful motivations to enter into the decisions, policies and actions of those engaged in this kind of sport.

Somewhere out there is the ideal of sport as an ideal, but when it comes to the actual way that franchises and leagues and organizations are run, there have to be an awful lot of compromises and there are an incredible array of opportunities for things to go in an immoral rather than a moral direction.

But as you’re thinking about professional golf, you are talking about a fairly rarefied sport. Now in every sport, the top elite is after all an elite, but when it comes to golf, the entry costs for getting into professional golf are actually quite high. That’s because golf, from the very beginning, has not been a sport of the people, so to say, it’s been the sport of those who could afford to play golf. And afford, by the way, both in terms of time and money.

But the creation of LIV Golf was met with outrage by the PGA that actually over the course of the last year or so, created policies that meant that those who joined LIV Golf and some of them were attracted with what were defined in the media as seven, eight, and even nine figure salaries over time or income over time, those golfers are then banned from the PGA. That created a problem for the PGA because the PGA’s own tournaments were without some of those players and the people who were buying the tickets and offering the support, the networks and television and streaming sources that were buying the rights, they had an awful lot of interest in those players being back in the game, back on the tournament, back on the golf course.

From a Christian worldview perspective, a couple of things here. First of all, just the giant meta picture, which is the fact that morality’s everywhere, but then the micro picture, looking at this development and professional golf and recognizing that the PGA has a lot to explain here, the PGA’s leadership is going to have to do a lot of explaining, or at least a lot of evading because they had made very clear that it is the money coming from Saudi Arabia that made LIV Golf in their view immoral. That was the case they made, and yet now they have merged and the money is going to be the same money coming from the same wealth fund, representing the same crowned prince and royal family.

So as Jason Gay, writing for the Wall Street Journal, and that’s probably not insignificant either, Jason Gay writing for the Journal simply offers an article with the headline, “The money wins again in golf.” The editors subhead is simply this, “An allegedly righteous battle between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf ends in a staggering merger.” Later, Jason Gay writes, “Cynicism, of course, is the default position from any aspects of professional sports. This one is going down like a double stack of cynicism on cynicism, a bracing jolt of reality for anyone who thought the dispute was about anything more elevated than the bottom line.”

Jason Gay ends on a cynical assessment, but Christians understand exactly what he means and in a fallen world how we are to understand this, “In the coming days, we will learn of more winners, losers, and raw feelings. It’s an old lesson,” Jason Gay writes, “That gets repeated again and again in sports and business, but still deserves an occasional reminder, the money has won because it almost always does.” And in a world where you add money to the popular acclaim of sports and to the interest in athletics and all the rest, you have the opportunity for things to get off the rails because of the money very, very quickly.

Part III

D-Day, 79 Years Later: Profound Gratitude to the Heroes Who Stormed the Beaches of Normandy and Changed History

Finally on The Briefing for today, this week marks the 79th anniversary of D-Day. That is the allied invasion of the Nazi held continent of Europe. It came on June the 6th, 1944. More than 150,000 allied troops were involved in the largest sea, air and land invasion in all of military history. It was one of the turning points of history, and it’s important that we recognize how much was staked upon D-Day, this invasion.

And even the first day, even the first hours of that invasion, it’s important for us to understand that if things had gone badly for the allies, there would’ve been a perpetuation of the war, and the huge question as to whether there would’ve been a negotiated settlement at some point with Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. And you’re looking at logistical challenge, which is beyond our imagination. This was before computers as we know them. This was before a lot of modern logistics.

The organization of 150,000 troops, you’re talking about hundreds and thousands of aircraft, you’re talking about specially devised landing craft, you’re talking about an enormous naval flotilla that was also involved, and the enormous challenge of getting more than 100,000 fighting men across the English Channel, putting them into action fast enough. It also required catching the Nazis by surprise.

We now know that catching the Nazis by surprise involved all kinds of maneuvers and strategies on the part of the allies. It included the creation of an entire dummy army, along with inflatable dummy tanks in order to fool the Nazis at a place considerably east of where the armed forces were actually gathering and the invasion would actually take place. There was also the use of such things as a dead body who was dressed to look like a spy with fake invasion plans that the Nazis would find, thinking that they had just received an enormous gold rush of information, only to find out later and too late that the information was false.

The human dimension of all of this reminds us of the gratitude we should feel for all of those involved in this effort. There were so many acts of heroism involved in D-Day. And it’s very significant that there were still World War II veterans, indeed, even veterans of D-Day and the associated effort who were there in Normandy for the celebration this week. An organization known as the Best Defense Foundation organized a special Delta charter flight that took 43 American veterans back to the land of their invasion 79 years ago.

Now, you do the math, due to the training requirements, the youngest soldiers who should have been there at the time in 1944 were 18 and 19 years old. Fast-forward 79 years, two of the soldiers, two of the veterans cited in the coverage of the Associated Press, the first was a man, Robert Gibson, he’s now 99 years old. His three word remembrance of D-Day came down to this, “It was tough.” Gibson was reminded of landing with 150 other allied troops, he said there were “lots of casualties. We had almost run over bodies to get in the beach. Never forget we were only 18, 19 years old. I’m glad I made it,” he said.

Jake Larson is also cited in the AP story, he is now 100 years old, another veteran of the effort, he met up there at Normandy just this week, with Bill Gladden, a 99-year-old British man. At 99 years old, Andrew Negra returned to Utah Beach. The last time he was there, he was a teenager on July the 18th, 1944. “At age 99,” says the Associated Press, “Negra is the only member of his battalion who is still alive.” Braving the wind to walk the beach for a few minutes, according to the Press, Mr. Negra said, “So many we lost, and here I am.”

Just four years ago on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the Allies created an enormous celebration and observed that occasion, assuming and even declaring at the time that that would be the last of the big observances that would involve veterans of the efforts, simply because it was unlikely that many at such advanced ages could travel safely to the observance.

It’s also very moving to see the reports of so many people in France and were then in occupied Nazi territory, expressing appreciation for the bravery and courage, not to mention the vast scale of the invasion that eventually led to the liberation of Europe from the Nazi threat and Nazi tyranny.

But as we close The Briefing for today, we need to remember that among the grateful, we should not only look to those who were in captive Europe and later generations there, but those who are of later generations here. And even as they are passing into history, we need to remember that our main response should be gratitude.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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