The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

It’s Tuesday, August 15, 2023.

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

Part I

The Left’s New Political Strategy is Silencing Speech?: Illinois Governor Pritzker and Allies Target Free Speech of Crisis Pregnancy Centers

We’re looking at a country deeply divided at the most basic issue of worldview. One of the issues that makes this most demonstrable, of course, is the issue of abortion. Pro-life Americans have been working so long for what was realized in June of 2022, in the Dobbs decision striking down Roe v. Wade from 1973. That was an essential achievement for the pro-life movement.

At the same time, it has also increased our workload. It has increased or at least made more clear the challenge that is before us. In these blue and even bluer states, in the red and even redder states, we have two different sets of circumstance. But at least one thing that was not adequately foreseen, is the extent to which some of the blue states would turn bluer than would previously have been imaginable. Now, what am I talking about? Well, let me just give you the example of two states, number one, California.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, who has turned himself into the darling of the left wing of the Democratic Party, is trying to do everything possible not only to prove that his state is a haven, as he would say, for abortion providers, but he’s even asking and inviting women to come from other states. Of course, since he is Gavin Newsom and it is California, we’ll have to say pregnant people rather than women, but nonetheless, he is inviting women seeking abortions.

In other states, where abortion may be restricted or illegal, he is inviting them to come to California and seeking, at least to some extent, successfully to raise funding in order to tell women he’ll help to pay for them to come to California for abortions. If you were to go back even in the Democratic Party, say just a decade, you wouldn’t find a single example of a governor willing to walk that kind of plank, but Governor Gavin Newsom is. If he is matched or exceeded by anyone, it would be Governor J.B. Pritzker, who is the very liberal Democratic governor of Illinois.

In Illinois, Pritzker is trying to do basically the same thing that Gavin Newsom has been doing in California. One of the things both of them have been up to, is trying to find some legal, legislative, bureaucratic, regulatory way to shut down so-called crisis pregnancy centers or women’s resource centers, pro-life centers that offer services and counsel to pregnant women. With an overwhelming liberal majority in the California General Assembly and with every statewide office held by a liberal Democrat, the issue has been relatively easy in political terms there in California.

But for the legal protections of free speech and also religious liberty, other liberty protections that have prevented Governor Newsom in California and at least to this point, Governor Pritzker in Illinois, from shutting down crisis pregnancy centers. This tells us a couple things. One of the things it tells us is that those centers are effective. If they weren’t effective, they would not be so hated. One of the reasons why I speak for these centers and support these centers, is because they’re doing very, very good work.

They’re often operating simply on the basis of volunteer time. Many people giving of their time, many people giving of their funding, in order to provide a place where a woman, who is unexpectedly pregnant, can show up and find some assistance, not only in terms of services and even some medical services, sometimes an ultrasound, but also where they can find counsel, good, godly counsel. One footnote here, by the way, is my mention of the ultrasound, because it was the development of the ultrasound that did serve as a game changer in this entire equation.

Because so long as the only moral agent acknowledged in the question of abortion was the pregnant woman–if the baby was invisible and eclipsed–abortion became a stronger argument. It was the images coming of the unborn from the womb, that allowed women seeing those images for the first time to recognize that in their womb was not only a thing, was not only a problem, but a baby. Those who work in these women’s resource centers, crisis pregnancy centers, they will tell you an entire change in attitude and understanding often came into the room, just with the first sight of that ultrasound.

Now, that doesn’t mean that all the challenges went away. It doesn’t mean that all the women who saw ultrasounds, were dissuaded from going forward with an abortion. It did mean it’s enough of a game changer, that Governor Gavin Newsom and Governor J.B. Pritzker hate those crisis pregnancy centers. In Illinois–that’s where the big story is right now–the Illinois state government under the leadership of J.B. Pritzker, the governor, and also the state’s Attorney General Kwame Raoul, they supported legislation that regulated anti-abortion groups, and basically, tried to shut down the speech of women’s resource centers, so that there could be no message of a pro-life nature that was presented in such a context.

Now, the way they went about this was somewhat diabolical. They basically in Illinois said, look, we’re going to adopt an act or we’re going to amend Illinois’ Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, to argue that it’s a deceptive business practice for these pro-life centers to make pro-life arguments to women, who might be otherwise seeking an abortion.

Now, that turns out to be too clever by half, at least in the view of a federal judge in this case, US District Court Judge Iain Johnston, who in an August 4 order, granted a preliminary injunction to women’s crisis pregnancy centers there in the state of Illinois. His language in handing down the injunction against the Pritzker administration, well, it’s classic. It deserves some close attention.

Now, remember, this is a federal judge, they usually speak in rather measured speech. But this federal judge, Judge Iain Johnston, said of this law attempting to basically charge crisis pregnancy centers with being guilty of the crime of conducting deceptive business practices. The judge said that the law, “Is both stupid and very likely unconstitutional.” Now, you expect a judge to speak in the language of constitutional and unconstitutional, but it tells us something that this judge went so far as to speak of the law not only as unconstitutional, that’s why it’s most important, but secondly as stupid.

Now, why would a federal judge use a word like stupid? Is he going to explain why he used it? Well, Judge Johnston did. This is what he said, “It is stupid because its own supporter admitted it was unneeded and had no evidence supporting its claims of deception.” He said it’s unconstitutional, or he said likely unconstitutional “because it is a blatant example of government taking the side of whose speech is sanctionable and whose speech is immunized.” That is to say, which speech is prohibited and which is protected.

The judge rightly pointed to a Supreme Court precedent from 2015, known as the case of Reed versus the Town of Gilbert, in which the Supreme Court of the United States made extremely clear, that laws that would try to prohibit a specific type of speech because of the content of that speech, are on their face almost assuredly, unconstitutional. As much as Governor Pritzker and Governor Newsom in California respectively are trying to turn their states into havens of abortion, they are going to be prohibited from turning their states into islands free from the Constitution of the United States of America.

That’s a very important process, legal, constitutional issue for pro-life Christians to keep in mind.

Now, one of the key legal categories here, is known as viewpoint discrimination. That’s a very important legal issue. That’s what government is prohibited from doing. Government can’t say that we have a prejudice towards those who want to demand pink paint, rather than those who want to demand blue paint. You can’t say that. You can’t say that you’re looking at a political position and if you favor bigger government, that’s protected speech. If you favor more limited government, that’s prohibited speech or restricted speech. That is discrimination on the basis of viewpoint and content, and that’s exactly what the First Amendment to the United States Constitution says the federal government can’t do. By extension, this means that the states also cannot as governments, practice the kind of viewpoint discrimination and content discrimination that is at the very heart of this.

Furthermore, this federal judge pointed to the fact that the law that the governor there in Illinois and the attorney general invoked, specifically excludes the application of the law to crisis pregnancy centers. Now, that raises another issue. What then were the governor and the attorney general, and those who were complicit in the state legislature, what were they doing in passing this legislation, if they almost had to know that it would be struck down or at least put on hold in a preliminary injunction?

A preliminary injunction, by the way, in legal terms doesn’t mean that the case is over. It means that a federal judge in this case, has issued an injunction. It’s preliminary in the sense that there is no hearing or trial that has yet taken place, but he’s saying in this case, there is such a likelihood of the one making the application here to succeed later in court, that the judge will at least grant temporary relief, which means this law is put on hold, until the case can go further.

Of course, the state of Illinois may decide that it is not going to defend this particular unconstitutional law in court. Now, why would they do that? Why would the governor, why would the attorney general do that, if they know there is very little likelihood this law could succeed, if it could stand constitutional scrutiny? Why would they decide to defend it and appeal or in court or in trial? They may not, but they may. Why would they do this? The answer is this is government leadership by political posturing.

Now, you can have the governor of Illinois say, as other governors have in the past and political candidates, all the way to the White House have said similar things. “I really took a courageous stand here and I would’ve gotten away with it, except for a federal court judge who’s not letting it go through. I’m standing for you, pro-abortion activists in the Democratic Party. I’m standing for you, liberal voters, that want to vote for me. By the way, vote for me in this case.”

When it comes to both of these governors, that’s not a concern limited to their state border. Both of them are seen and perhaps even more clearly see themselves, as future contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination. When it comes to this kind of political posturing, part of it is directed towards Illinois. Part of it is directed to the mainstream media and the political elite. Part of it is, well, basically directed at future primary voters in a future race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

If you think that’s suspicious, I may just tell you, this is an area in which you must be suspicious.

One final thought on this particular story, it points to the need for attorneys committed to constitutionalism, to show up and be ready to take these cases and to take them to court. There are organizations that are leading the way in so many of these issues, and you hear me mention them regularly on The Briefing. I also want to point to something else, and that is that most Americans likely will never know about this story.

In the mainstream media, you can tell that there’s something of an agenda or at least a pattern in submerging this kind of story. I want to say a word of appreciation in this sense, to the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, who ran a full editorial. It’s just important to recognize, that there’s at least one major national newspaper in the United States that still consider stories like this in the defense of free speech, to be matters of importance.

I want to quote from the editorial, this is what they say toward the end and it’s addressed to the Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker. They write this, “Mr. Pritzker is gaining a reputation as a hard left culture warrior, who is happy to silence political opponents.” We can be thankful that at least someone in the mainstream media understands that game when it is seen and is willing to call it out.

Part II

A Parable of the Problems with Big Government: The Unmitigated Transportation Disaster of the JCPS Busing System in Louisville

But next, as we’re thinking about government, there’s something else we really need to talk about here. One of the key conservative insights deeply grounded in Christian observation, is the fact that the government, which is best, is the government, which is smaller, not larger. It’s one of the reasons why the motto against big government has been an important part of the conservative movement going all the way back to the 18th century, and in particular, the 19th century and the rise of Leviathan states, such as you saw in Bismarck’s Germany and in Woodrow Wilson’s United States of America.

Not to mention FDR, the New Deal, the expansion of the bureaucratic and the administrative state in the United States. The American government increasingly becomes the vision that Thomas Hobbes, the political philosopher, warned of as Leviathan. It’s simply giant. But one of the things we need to note is that Leviathan doesn’t just refer to the federal government, that’s what’s most clear in the United States, but also to other levels of government.

That’s because when government expands, and in terms of expansion, it’s been explosive at the federal level over the last century, it explodes just about everywhere. On the left, there is the assumption that bigger is better. Now, let’s ask the question to why. Why would the conservative insight, which I’m going to argue is deeply grounded in Christian understanding, why would it be that smaller is better, while the left thinks that bigger is better?

Well, it is because the left sees number one, the administrative state as the way to get its agenda done. Now, I’m not making that up. That’s not just an accusation. That’s exactly the argument made by Woodrow Wilson as President of the United States in the early 20th century. Now, by the way, he started making that argument when he was teaching political science as a professor at Princeton University. It was Woodrow Wilson and others who looked at the development of the administrative state.

Seeing the clearest example in Bismarck’s building of this massive administrative state in Germany, they saw that as the wave of the future. Fueled by the philosophy of Hegel and a Hegelian understanding of history, they saw history being driven forward by inevitable, secular progress and a progress of spirit. The government expanding would respect that and reflect that expanding spirit of the nation. There’s another reason why the left loves big government, and that is because big government means big control.

The key conservative insight has been that the bigger the government, the smaller the liberties, so why are we talking about this today? Well, we’re talking about it today because an awful lot of kids got home in the middle of the night, after the first day of school in Louisville, Kentucky last week, on the first day of the school year. It was a complete breakdown of the system of transportation, getting school children on school buses to public schools here in Louisville and Jefferson County, Kentucky, it was a complete breakdown.

It was an unmitigated disaster. There were some very, very young children sitting on buses. They not only sat on the buses through dinner, the last of them got home about 10:00 PM. Since then, the public schools in Louisville, having just begun the school year with an unmitigated disaster, are on hold and they’re on hold again today. One more irony, in the midst of all of this and some of the hottest days in August in Louisville, Kentucky, these days with the children out of school are being counted as snow days.

Marty Pollio, who is the Jefferson County Public School superintendent, referred to what had taken place and called it, “A transportation disaster.” A letter was sent to parents, apologies were made to all. However, there is no obvious way out of this. Superintendent Pollio said, “While JCPS always experiences delays in transportation during the first several days of school, what happened today is unacceptable.”

He went on to say, “We acknowledge that the delays and frustrations felt by families were worse than in years past, as bus drivers, family, students, and school staff all work to navigate a brand-new transportation plan.” Now one key conservative insight about government, is that you should fear hearing expressions such as a brand-new transportation plan. President Ronald Reagan put it this way when he said the scariest words in the English language were these, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”

Now, let me just state that I am very thankful I am not the superintendent of the school system. That wouldn’t work in any number of way. But one of the things we have to say is that we need to have at least some sympathy for the massive, logistical challenges being faced by a school system. The problem here is actually the existence in one sense of the school system; it’s a massive system. 68,000 students being transported, and you’re talking about multiple schools, multiple hubs, multiple needs for drivers, incredibly complex logistics.

The school board had actually hired a special professional firm to figure out the logistics, and as we now know, that didn’t go so well either. Back before the first day of class and before this transportation disaster, there were already those who were asking, “Wouldn’t it be smarter to break up this giant system with so many thousands and tens of thousands of students in it into more workable units?” It’s very interesting, the local paper had to reflect in recent days that that idea might now be gaining at least just a little bit of traction.

We’ve gone a long way in the United States from the ideal of the community or the neighborhood school. The very idea of a local school is now something that is refuted by the social engineering and worse. That is often what you see demonstrated in the patterns of enrollments in America’s especially large public school systems. You have to have great sympathy for so many of the children, who are basically trapped in this massive system, and particularly in this transportation problem.

Many of them were trapped on buses, some of them without air conditioning on a very hot day. They had no access to food, they had no access to water, they had no access to bathrooms, and some of them didn’t get home until 10 o’clock. Some parents are calling the police in order to report their children missing, some of them as young as five. One other way to look at this is that one insight we might think is important here, is understanding that when it comes to the need for say, small government, that turns out to be particularly important when you’re talking about small people.

Because those who have paid the price most dramatically, are those children who are losing instructional hours, losing entire days, losing opportunity. Of course, they’re also those who were lost in this school system and in its bus system for a matter of long hours. Unless this is fixed, are going to continue to be lost all over again.

By the way, before I leave this, I mentioned that the prejudice towards small government in order to protect big liberty, that that’s not only a conservative insight, it’s deeply grounded in Christian thinking.

Now, what would be that Christian thinking? The Christian thinking is this. The state in a fallen world, the government that is to say in a fallen world, will always try to collect an aggrandize unto itself, power, prestige, expertise basically to fill the social space. That’s exactly what you see in the demonstrations of big government, whether it’s Governor J.B. Pritzker there in Illinois, or it’s this transportation disaster. A lot of this could be at least mitigated, if not answered, by the combination of increased accountability and decreased numbers.

That would also mean there would be less control from outside the system. Again, a key conservative insight. You might want it big, so you have to make it professional and you have to make it bureaucratic. Then you have to bring in expertise from outside, and then the big government tells you how to do this even bigger business.

Part III

Totalitarianism Cracks Down on Grief: China Now Regulating Human Emotion on a National Scale

But as we’re thinking about the problem of big government, as we conclude for today, let’s consider an even worse alternative, and that is the totalitarian temptation.

An example, a reminder of just how horrifying totalitarianism is, it comes to us in a report from The New York Times about the communist regime of the People’s Republic of China. In this case, what it tells us is that under the current leadership of the Communist Party, national tragedies have to be without names. There’s absolutely no confirmation of those who are victims of matters large or small in terms of tragedies. The bigger the tragedy, the more likely that there is no reporting whatsoever.

There are no national mourning. You take the disaster of the fires in Maui and you have the American news media and others, not to mention social media, exploding with data, with information, with reports, and also with arguments. You look at disasters on a similar or even far greater scale in the People’s Republic of China, that is communist China, there is no such reporting. There are no such arguments. This report’s coming from China by reporter, Li Juan of The New York Times. It’s in the New New World column of The New York Times.

The headline is this, “When tragedy strikes in China, the government represses grief.” Now, when you’re thinking about totalitarianism, just imagine a regime that is so committed to total control over everything, that it is absolutely determined that it will control and repress and suppress even national emotion. Reporter Li Juan writes, “In the past decade or so, the Chinese government has tightly controlled how tragedies reported by the news media and portrayed on social media, official media seldom disclose victims’ names. Family members run into trouble with the authorities if they mourn the dead publicly or loudly. This kind of emotional repression on a mass scale reflects the party’s expectation of the Chinese people to play only one role, that of the obedient and grateful subject no matter what happens to them.”

The article thanks Ian Johnson, an author on China. He is writing a new book entitled Sparks: China’s Underground Historians and their Battle for the Future, he said this. Xi Jinping, that is the leader of the Communist Party in China, “Has made control of history one of his signature policies because he sees counter history as an existential threat.” That’s another way of saying that’s an academic way of saying that the autocratic, totalitarian, communist leaders in China see the truth as a threat and sometimes the truth shows up even at the national scale in tears. But in China, no tears, no names, no victims, nothing. That kind of report is, of course, infuriating even as it is heartbreaking.

But we need to face it squarely and understand that’s exactly what happens when government takes unto itself and claims for itself all power, even the power over time and truth and history, even over emotion.

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’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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