The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Thursday, June 22, 2023

It is Thursday, June 22nd, 2023.

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

Part I

A Federal Judge Plays Medical Authority: Judge Strikes Down Arkansas Law Banning Gender Transition Care for Minors, Citing Medical Arguments

Well, perhaps we can look back at the good old days when doctors practiced medicine and lawyers practice law, but now we have lawyers practicing medicine. And that’s exactly what took place in a federal district courtroom in Arkansas, when just in recent days, Judge James M. Moody Jr. handed down an 80-page ruling that struck down an Arkansas law entitled, the Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act, that would’ve prevented transgender treatments in particular surgery, when it comes to adolescents in the state of Arkansas.

And so what we have here is a federal judge, by definition, a lawyer by trade, citing medical consensus, as if he knows what that is, in striking down, a law duly passed by the Arkansas legislature. And not only passed, but passed with an overwhelming affirmation after former governor Asa Hutchinson had vetoed it.

According to the 80-page ruling by the judge, and again, that’s Judge James M. Moody Jr, their federal district court judge in Arkansas, he declared that the Arkansas law violates the US Constitution, and thus, that it cannot be enforced by state officials there in Arkansas. As the judge wrote, “Rather than protecting children or safeguarding medical ethics, the evidence showed that the prohibited medical care improves the mental health and wellbeing of patients, and that by prohibiting it, the state undermined the interest it claims to be advancing.”

Further said the judge, “The various claims underlying the state’s arguments that the act protects children and safeguards medical ethics, do not explain why only gender-affirming medical care, and all gender-affirming medical care, is singled out for prohibition.” Well, the reason it is singled out for prohibition is the fact that it is a singularly new development in terms of our entire culture.

You didn’t have the entire category, just a matter of a few years ago, but now you have a federal district court judge effectively practicing medicine, or at least ruling on medicine, telling the state of Arkansas that it does not have the authority to outlaw certain medical treatments. By the way, those issues are generally relegated actually to state laws. And then going on to offer a medical opinion as to why the law should be struck down.

Again, as you heard me say, the judge wrote that the “prohibited medical care improves the mental health and wellbeing of patients.” And that by prohibiting it, “The state of Arkansas has undermined the interest it claims to be advancing.” What would be those interests? The interests of public health, remember the law was entitled, the Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act. What I want us to see is that we are now basically living in one of two moral worlds, and even as people may be living side by side in Arkansas, they may be inhabiting the same state, but they’re inhabiting two different moral worlds.

In this case, this judge is inhabiting a moral world, very different from that of the majority of the Arkansas legislature. The worlds are so markedly different that in one world the world represented by the judge and the judge’s opinion here, it makes perfect sense that you would offer to adolescents the opportunity to have access to medical care, whether it be puberty blocking hormones, or for that matter what is defined as gender-affirming, care, which could even under certain circumstances lead to surgery.

Certainly in some cases we know it actually has. You live in that world in which that makes sense. And indeed in that world, any obstacle to an adolescent obtaining that care is itself a moral problem which must be overcome. That, by the way, includes not only the Arkansas legislature but parents.

In the other moral world, it doesn’t make sense to subject children and teenagers to hormone or surgical treatments or any combination of the two that basically seeks to undo the entire design of creation and puts them at risk, in a way that is, ultimately, especially when it comes to the surgery, irreversible. They’re also questions about, of course, the medical consequences of the hormone treatments. But as we’re looking at this, you understand that you can live in one of those two moral worlds. You can’t live in both of them.

And in this case, the moral world that is inhabited by this federal district court judge, at least for the present, has put on hold a law passed in that other moral world, the world in which this legislation was passed in Arkansas. If you look at the 80-page ruling itself, what again is so amazing is how much medicine is cited. And it’s cited in a particular way. To claim that there is an overwhelming consensus in the medical community, and of course, that authored by and advanced by so-called medical experts, you have this supposed overwhelming consensus that it’s wrong to block teenagers from this kind of medical care, and it’s absolutely right to offer it to them.

The front page article in the New York Times puts it this way, “Judge Moody, who was overwhelmingly confirmed by the Senate in 2014, repeatedly cited the scientific evidence outlined by the law’s opponents as well as the hours of testimony from doctors and transgender children and their families that described the painstaking decision making process before beginning transition care.”

The judge eventually wrote, “There is no evidence that the Arkansas healthcare community is throwing caution to the wind when treating minors with gender dysphoria.” We’re going to come back to that statement in just a moment. It’s going to turn out to be crucial.

The judge went on to say, “The state has failed to prove that its interest in the safety of Arkansas adolescents from gender transitioning procedures or the medical community’s ethical decline are compelling, genuine, or even rational.” Now, that’s overheated rhetoric coming from a federal judge, I guess we should be used to that by now. But in this case, you have a judge effectively citing the authority of medicine.

Now, let’s just remind ourselves, he went to law school, not medical school. And nonetheless, he’s telling us and with the authority of a federal judge, he’s telling us what the medical consensus is. And not only that, he is offering a frontal attack upon those who would offer the contrary argument saying that they are on the margins, they are irresponsible. He said their “arguments are neither compelling nor genuine.” He went on to say, “or even rational.”

But I want us to go back to one statement made by this judge in his decision, because this particular statement is indicative of the weakness of the entire argument, but it also demonstrates the extent to which that one moral world, the world in which you have the transgender revolution reigning. In that world, any obstacle that stands in the way simply has to be done away with. And as I’ve said, in many cases that would simply include parents.

But I wanted to go back to that statement to which I drew attention, the statement where the judge said, “There is no evidence of the Arkansas healthcare communities throwing caution to the wind when treating minors with gender dysphoria.”

He then went on at repeated points actually in his decision to say, “There’s a medical consensus that these kinds of treatments are absolutely legitimate. It comes with the full force of medical authorities in the United States, to question that is to question the entire edifice of modern medicine.”

Part II

When it Comes to Adolescents, the U.S. is a ‘Transgender-Care Outlier’ — European Countries Have Pulled Way Back on Transgender Procedures for Teens

I simply want to counter that with another headline news story and with another development that tells us just how dangerous and unfounded that judge’s logic turns out to be.

This judge, again, delving into the entire world of medicine tells us that, “The American Medical Association and many other professional associations, the medical establishment are entirely for and insist upon the rightness of and the availability of these treatments for teenagers.” But what the judge didn’t acknowledge is that there are also medical authorities who make the contrary argument. What the judge, also, did not acknowledge is that the United States is increasingly something of an outlier, if not an outlaw, along with our medical establishment by the way, in dealing with a question of transgenderism and teenagers.

Now, evidence of that is available just in the recent pages of the Wall Street Journal. It’s important to cite that, because this is publicly available information. And frankly, it’s been out there for some time and we’ve talked about many of these issues already on The Briefing. Jathon Sapsford and Stephanie Armour are the reporters in this article. Just listen to the headline, and understand, it came at just about the same day this judge handed down his decision, just about one day after another, here’s the headline, “U.S. Becomes Transgender-Care Outlier as more in Europe Urge Caution.”

Here’s the bottom line. You have nations in Europe, you have medical associations, medical authorities, medical elites in Europe who are backing off of what had been rather liberal policies and rules when it came to the transgender question and teenagers in those countries. We’ve talked about Tavistock, that is the clinic in the United Kingdom where these transgender treatments have been pioneered for many teenagers. The British government became so concerned about the impact on the health, medical and psychological health of teenagers that the site has been shut down.

Sapsford and Armour get right to the point in the lead sentence of their article when they write, “The US is becoming an outlier among many Western nations in the way its national medical institutions treat children suffering from distress over gender identity.” The next sentence, “For years, the American healthcare industry has staunchly defended medical interventions for transgender minor, including puberty blockers, which suppress the physical changes of adolescents as a treatment for those distressed over their gender.”

Listen to this, “The European medical community, by contrast, is expressing doubts about that approach. Having allowed these treatments for years, five countries, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and France now urge caution in their use reminders stressing a lack of evidence that the benefits outweigh the risks.”

Now, what makes this so important and the juxtaposition is so urgent when you consider the fact that the judge in Arkansas made an argument that directly is contradictory to this. So even as he says, “Look, the medical evidence is abundantly clear,” you have an international consensus that is developing in the opposite direction. You have the Wall Street Journal, no insignificant newspaper, telling us that it is the United States of America and our medical establishment that is increasingly the outlier on this equation.

You wouldn’t have a clue of that reading that federal district court judge’s opinion in Arkansas. There are still some Western countries that allow the use of puberty blockers in adolescents, and that would include Canada, Spain, and Australia, but as the Journal tells us, some in those countries are also urging a rollback on that policy. The Italian Psychoanalytic Society wrote a public letter to the Italian prime minister just months ago expressing what the society called serious concerns over the use of puberty blockers.

There’s another sentence in this article in the Wall Street Journal, a secular newspaper writing with secular authority, here, it’s not claiming anything other than a secular rationale, but notice the clarity of this sentence. “The U.S. medical community hasn’t wavered in its support for medical interventions and continues to recommend puberty blockers and hormones for minors as a clinical option. Unlike the concerns expressed by many authorities in Europe, U.S. medical associations often treat the science behind such medical interventions as settled.”

Two big problems here. Number one, we need to recognize that when we are talking about the medical associations or societies or frankly, any interest group like that, we have to understand that they are inherently and inescapably political. And there was no greater demonstration of this than in the early 1970s when both the American Psychiatric Association, that’s medical doctors, and the American Psychological Association within just months of each other reversed, and I don’t mean changed, I mean reversed their understanding of homosexuality. Not because of medical evidence, but because of political pressure, and all of that is very well documented. Those who brought the political pressure, quite successfully, celebrated and advertised exactly how they brought it about. So that’s the first thing we need to keep in mind.

The second thing we need to keep in mind is something, and when I say this, I mean no insult to the medical community, it is simply a matter of fact, in many areas of medicine there are just vast millions, even billions of dollars to be made by offering procedures and treatments, not by not offering them.

It’s not an accident that, and I’ve mentioned this before on The Briefing, if you go to a place like Los Angeles, California, you look in the listings for what used to be called plastic surgery is now called sometimes aesthetic surgery, you will notice it is a huge market. And make no mistake, it is medicine, but it’s also a massive consumer market, which is also, by the way, pushed and advertised in some circles almost as if it is just another service.

What we see here, and Christians need to understand this, is that in a fallen world, systems do interconnect structures do reinforce one another. And so you’re looking at a very liberal progressivist activist agenda coming from LGBTQ+ groups, it just also tends to come with a certain commercial advantage as well. As we try to understand the world around us, and I think most Christians would understand, there are a few stories actually with more importance or urgency than when we’re talking about issues of gender identity and teenagers, we’re talking about medical treatment and adolescents, we’re talking about harm and care. I think Christians understand, this is some of the most important moral territory we could consider.

We should also consider that just in a matter of the juxtaposition of what is not just days but almost just hours, you have a federal judge in Arkansas saying, “The weight of medical authority,” writing as if he’s a medical doctor. It’s just so clear and overwhelming that this law passed by the Arkansas legislatures to be put on hold in the name of medical consensus.

At the very same time, you have the Wall Street Journal running an article declaring the United States and our medical establishment to be the outlier when it comes to these issues, even when compared to more liberal societies such as those in Western Europe.

You look at the situation that is now underlined by this federal court decision in Arkansas, and Christians sometimes need to ask the question, how could this have happened? But it’s not enough just to ask the question. We have to take responsibility for trying to figure out the answer to that question as well.

Part III

Lia Thomas Mansplains Feminism? The Transgender Movement Clashes with Feminism (and Biology) Once Again

By the way, a related issue also arose recently in congressional testimony. And in this case it had to do with the participation of, say, biological males in female sports or vice versa. The only reason we say vice versa is because it’s hypothetically possible. We understand, that is not the issue. It is not biological females trying to play on male teams that is the issue here, it is the opposite.

And one of the names that has become familiar to us linked to this issue is Riley Gaines, the former NCAA swimmer who has brought very bold arguments as a young woman into the public square saying that, it is absolutely wrong that someone like the person identified as Lia Thomas, identified as a transgender woman. In other words, a biological male, who by the way was fully developed as a biological male with the physical advantages. It’s not fair for the individual known as Lia Thomas to be able to displace women who’ve been working very hard, both as girls and women in the world of women’s athletics.

But recently in a Senate hearing, just in the last couple of days, Riley Gaines responded to a statement made by Lia Thomas when it came to explaining why there is what’s often described as a backlash against so-called transgender athletes. The person who identifies as Lia Thomas said, “They’re using the guise of feminism to sort of push transphobic beliefs. I think a lot of people in that camp sort of carry an implicit bias against trans people, but I don’t want to, I guess, fully manifest or speak that out. And so they just try to play it off as this sort of half support.”

The important thing to realize there is that what Thomas said is that feminism is being used to “push transphobic beliefs.” Well, we’ve often discussed the fact that there is a head on collision between feminism and the transgender revolution, for the clear and simple reason that feminism doesn’t make sense without the female part of feminism. But nonetheless, Lia Thomas had made the statement just dismissing feminism saying, “Now it’s just being used as a tool in order to push” what Thomas described as “transphobic beliefs.”

Responding to that before the Senate panel Riley Gaines said, “Feminism is not a fluid term. The meaning of what it means to be a feminist is to uphold, respect, honor, embrace, and celebrate women on our own physical ceilings, our own uniqueness. The term has not changed,” said Riley Gaines. “What this really is,” meaning the statements by Lia Thomas, “is a male mansplaining what it is to be a feminist, which I honestly think is pretty ironic and something we’ve seen before.”

Well, boom, there it lands. Here you have Riley Gaines making the clear, and by the way, absolutely accurate statement that the person who identifies as Lia Thomas is actually a man, and, in trying to redefine feminism, what this man is doing is mansplaining. I just want to say I thank Riley Gaines here is making a brilliant point. It is one that’s likely to be lost on people who are sold out to the transgender revolution, because after all, it’s pretty futile to complain about mansplaining if you’ve undermined what it means to say, “Man.”

By the way, I also want to say that the person presenting as Lia Thomas did make an interesting point, and it also came in response to the same issue. Responding to those who use a feminist argument to dismiss transgenderism, Lia Thomas said this, “They’re, like, ‘Oh, we respect Lia as a woman, as a trans woman or whatever. We respect her identity. We just don’t think it’s fair.’ You can’t really have that sort of half support where you’re like, ‘Oh, I respect her as a woman here, but not there.’ That means as a woman, say, in the larger culture, but not in the swimming pool, when it comes to competitive sports.” That’s the one point where we have to say, Lia Thomas has a legitimate point against those who are trying to offer something like a halfway support for the transgender revolution.

The one thing that Lia Thomas said, which is absolutely right, is that there is no halfway on this issue. And yet to pick up on the line that Riley Gaines used here, I think it’s really important to say that we do know that one day there is going to be an accounting for this moral revolution and those who have tried to subvert not only morality but even ontology, which is to say created order.

You might put it another way. It might be this, one day, some people are going to have a lot of splaining to do.

Part IV

Hunter Biden’s Plea Agreement: Questions about Truth and Justice Loom Large in the Wake of the Headline. And Does the Investigation Continue, or Not?

But we also need to look at headline news related to the son of the President of the United States, in this case, a criminal investigation, which either is or is not ongoing, undertaken in Delaware by United States attorney. The report came this week that a plea agreement had been arranged with Hunter Biden and the Justice Department in which he would plead guilty to misdemeanor counts related to tax evasion, and he would also enter into something known as a pretrial diversion over federal charges, which are even more serious, that he had lied on an application for a gun permit. The lie, by the way, had to do with drug use. He said he was not using drugs.

At the same time, later in a memoir entitled, Beautiful Things, Hunter Biden acknowledged that at the very same time he was smoking crack cocaine “every 15 minutes.” So he was caught in a lie, even in his own memoir. And that violation, by the way, in federal law, is a felony. By entering into the plea agreement with the US attorney, Hunter Biden has avoided a trial. He’s acknowledging guilt on the tax evasion charges. He is in this pretrial diversion program when it comes to the lying on a gun application charge, that would be the felony charge, if he indeed follows through in the court’s procedure, that charge will be dropped against him.

It’s not that he’s found guilty. It’s not that he’s found innocent. It’s not that he’s pleading guilty. This pretrial diversion is the way of going around the entire court process. And the bottom line in all of this is that Hunter Biden is not likely to spend time in prison. Legal experts are suggesting the likely outcome of all of this is a period of probation. He’s also paid back the taxes that were owed, and by the way, that was on over a million dollars of income.

There’s been so much attention to this case. We understand why, we’re talking about the son of a President of the United States. And there are two big questions looming over the entire issue, and number one is this, was this a fair and righteous, equitable, and explainable disposition of the case and the criminal charges? That’s question number one.

Question number two is, is the investigation ongoing or not? The reason we need to say this is because there were far larger issues, far larger questions, far larger open accusations, far larger questions in public about Hunter Biden’s role in any number of events, including making a whole lot of money, and that means millions, eventually, it is alleged, doing business with people in Ukraine when his father was Vice President of the United States and perhaps even thereafter. Using his father, his father’s name, and his father’s authority in order to establish this business.

The big question comes down to this. If this man were not named Hunter Biden, it’s virtually impossible to understand why anyone would pay him anything like this under any circumstances. The only explanation, the sole explanation for why these businesses, in particular in Ukraine, were willing to pay him vast sums of money comes down to the fact that his last name is Biden. Now, did he break the law and so doing? Well, that’s a question that remains to be settled. It is certainly not settled in the announcement of this plea agreement.

The question of the rightness of the justice involved in the plea agreement is one that’s going to be argued over the next several days. No doubt about that. And yet at the same time, the larger question has to do with whether the investigation’s ongoing or not.

The Office of the U.S. Attorney there in Delaware said, “It is ongoing.” But Hunter Biden’s attorney said, “No, the investigation has come to a close.” The big question the American people need to know is, okay, which is it? Which is the right answer? It is one or it is the other. You have the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the attorney for the defendant here having two absolutely different claims. One of them is true. One of them is false. They both cannot be true. The American people deserve to know, which is true.

The question of people, family members of U.S. presidents using their proximity to the president and to the White House for financial gain, that is not a new question. But every one of these cases deserves to be considered and investigated and understood on its own terms and with public accountability. In the case of Hunter Biden, there is abundant evidence that there’s a lot of accountability that has not come. There are a lot of questions that have not been answered. There are a lot of accusations that are still live, and at this point, subject, for example, to congressional investigation.

We really do depend upon the rule of law, but that rule of law must operate in the open so that the American people understand a credible argument as to why a decision was made or not made. Why one person is indicted and another is not. Why one person gets a very attractive plea agreement and another defendant might not get the same consideration.

This is one of those headline news stories that tells us, in this case, there are more questions raised by this story than are answered by them. And this is where we should also understand that if persons are reluctant to answer questions, that in itself, taken alone, in moral terms, tells us something.

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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