Thursday, April 4, 2024

It’s Thursday, April 4th, 2024. 


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

Part I

J.K. Rowling Dares the Scottish Government to Arrest Her: Scotland’s New Hate Speech Law Is an Atrocity

Well, for good reason, there’s a lot of attention being paid to Scotland’s new hate crime law. And one of the reasons this is being discussed so much in the media is because the author J.K. Rowling has put herself right in the middle of the controversy and thus she becomes a part of the story. And actually, a rather important and illustrative part of the story. You may remember that J.K. Rowling has been in trouble with the cultural Left in recent years because she is pretty clear she knows what a woman is as compared to a man. She’s pretty clear that that’s an objective fact, and that has put her right into direct collision with the transgender revolution.


And even as she has been threatened and there have been attempts to cancel her, to boycott her and all the rest, the reality is that she has the cultural standing that she can fight back against the bullies. And that’s exactly what she’s doing. And right now, the government of Scotland has become the chief bully. J.K. Rowling declared that a man is a man and a woman is a woman. And in particular, her cause is women. She is a feminist and that means she’s not a part of the cultural Right at all. She’s actually a part of the cultural Left, but she’s a part of the cultural Left that still has some sanity left.


Let’s just leave J.K. Rowling for a moment. We’ll come back to her. Let’s talk about what has happened in Scotland that sets the stage for this controversy. And trust me, it is one worth watching. Well, Scotland, a far more progressive or liberal society than most Americans probably think, Scotland has adopted what has been known as the Hate Crime and Public Order Act, and it went into effect Monday. So that’s why this story is so current. It went into effect Monday. Long before it went into effect, free speech champions were pointing out that there was going to be a direct collision between this law and any claim of free speech or in one sense, just free conversation.


But there is also the reality that this hate crimes law is at war with, well, being, ontology, physical constitution, male and female. And that’s because this particular law that went into effect Monday, the Hate Crime and Public Order Act, lists several different categories of people who are protected from what is identified as hate speech or protected from what are identified as hate acts or hate crimes.


In particular, there are six listings, so I think you can pretty much figure out what these are. Number one, age. Number two, disability. Number three, religion. And when it comes to religion, by the way, it’s not just religion. It is perceived religious affiliation. Number four is sexual orientation, you knew that was coming. But number five is transgender identity. Number six is what’s identified as variations in sex characteristics. And this refers to the very rare physical phenomenon. It’s rare but with billions of people on planet earth, there are a sizable number of persons. A small minority, but still they are persons made in the image of God for whom there are indeterminate gender or sexual characteristics.


But as you know, that is not the issue of controversy. The issue of controversy really comes down to the fact that this hate crimes legislation is addressed at criminalizing certain forms of speech and in effect criminalizing certain forms of thought that would take the form of argument. If you bring it out in public, you could be charged with a crime. Now, when it comes to these issues, let’s recognize there really isn’t a lot of controversy over the categories of age and disability, and yet there is a very big question about the general category of hate speech or hate crimes. Back to that in just a moment. We all know that primarily this is directed at the LGBTQ revolution and supporting, driving that revolution, protecting the essential claims of that revolution. We know that’s the front line issue. Religion is the middle category here, and that does play in this. However, it does not protect, say, religious people from getting in trouble with the law simply by declaring what we firmly believe is truth.


Now, supposedly there are protections written in for religious liberty and for freedom of speech, but that is an illusion because what you have here is one of the most repressive laws, to my knowledge, ever adopted anywhere. And one of the problems you have with this is that it is left in the power of a very, very powerful government to decide what is and is not a hate crime, who is and is not going to be prosecuted. And furthermore, it also requires an incredible amount of subjectivity on the part of a prosecuting government. This puts more power than you might imagine in the hands of people driven by the agenda of the cultural Left. And don’t think for a minute they won’t come for you.


Now, as I say, J.K. Rowling has been in trouble with the cultural left on these issues for a matter of years now, but with this law coming into effect and with her own residence in Scotland, well, you can see the collision coming. But J.K. Rowling decided she was going to make the issue public. She basically dared the Scottish government to come and arrest her for violating the new hate crimes statute. Rowling went on social media, she went on Twitter or X, and she wrote, “If what I’ve written here qualifies as an offense under the terms of the new act, I look forward to being arrested.” She also posted, “Freedom of speech and belief are at an end in Scotland if the accurate description of biological sex is deemed criminal.” Now, here’s a technicality. At this point, what appears to be deemed criminal, is whatever a prosecuting authority there in Scotland on the basis of this law says that it is and commences at court that it’s a legitimate charge.


And so what you have here are two different issues. Number one, you have the very real threat of criminal prosecution, but here’s how the Left operates. And frankly, it’s not just the political Left. It’s repressive government regardless of where that repression comes from in terms of ideology. A repressive government wants to scare you from speaking out loud. A repressive government wants to shape what can and cannot be said in the public square, and eventually that means to effectively shape and to limit what can and cannot be thought inside a society. And don’t miss that. It establishes a category of what are called hate crimes as based upon actions, but then it defines speech as a form of that action. And you know what it’s actually trying to get to is not just actions or even just words, but even thoughts. That is the key target here. Those who are driving this understand that they can change the way a society is morally ordered with this kind of repressive, and frankly, very ambiguous threatening legislation.


Now, by the way, the law is stated in words and how it is explained by the government says that the real problem is anyone who would stir up hatred. The crime is stirring up hatred. And this would include any kind of action that would further promote, disseminate, publish, or for that matter, take any kind of threatening action against persons in the covered specific categories. And remember, that’s a very expansive set of categories. But when it comes to determining even with the threat of criminal penalties, whether or not something is or is not a hate crime, there’s just an enormous amount of subjectivity driven. And as a matter of fact, the criterion established in the law is what a reasonable person would consider to be threatening, abusive, or insulting. Let me go back to that. The court’s supposed to determine, and even before the court, prosecuting authorities are supposed to make at least a minimal case of actions that “a reasonable person would consider to be threatening, abusive, or insulting”.


Now, threatening, that might be defined in terms along with abusive, that would be easier than that last term insulting because, quite honestly, we are living in a society where the morality of harm has been turned on its head where you are told you are now harming someone just by disagreeing with them, much less disagreeing about whether or not, for instance, male stays male and female stays female. One other very problematic part of this legislation is that there doesn’t have to be any specific person who is even identified as a victim. No person or group has to be identified as a victim. A charge can be brought against a citizen there in Scotland merely for what the government could claim a reasonable person might say might be insulting or threatening or abusive to a person in one of these protected classes. And don’t believe for a minute that government will not use that. Don’t believe that employers won’t use that. Don’t believe that educational campus authorities won’t use that. This will become the new way of absolutely shutting down speech that the dominant culture doesn’t want.


And guess what is at the center of this. Everything related to the normalization of LGBTQ behaviors, relationships, et cetera. If you are out of line with the LGBTQ revolution, you’re going to be shut down, you’re going to be shut up, or you’re going to be threatened continually with legal action. It’s not even clear by the way that a majority of people in Scotland are supportive of this law. What you are looking at is what happens when progressives gain control of a government structure. And this is of course being driven not only by politics which are local there in Scotland, but by international placement. You have all these governments wanting to set the pace for others around the world. And you have activists, especially for the LGBTQ movement, who are operating internationally. And the way they work is they will use this kind of legislation in Scotland and then bring political pressure on other governments to adopt similar legislation. And that’s exactly how truth is shut down.


But here’s something Christians need to keep in mind. You can shut down speech. At least, you can threaten it by legal action, even criminal sanctions. You can declare something as a hate crime. You can even make other declarations. You can declare as a government that a biological male is a woman. You can declare as a government that a biological woman is a man. But guess what? You can’t actually make that happen. From a Christian worldview, one of the saddest aspects of all of this is that there are people who are absolutely certain based in a very progressivist, very ideological, Leftist, very secular worldview, that secular part is really important, they are very much convinced that this will accomplish their purpose and thus it will shut down people saying, “No, that’s actually a man,” or, “No, that’s actually a girl.” It’ll shut that down because of the threat of criminal action. But you know what? That government can’t make a girl a boy and cannot make a man a woman. It may claim that it can establish a new legal reality, but guess what? It cannot change anatomy and physiology. It may rebel against creation order. It cannot reverse creation order. That is not in its power. 


But Christians also need to recognize that even as we have a very real sense of sympathy with people whose lives are so broken that they would make these declarations and demand these rights, at the same time we cannot stop saying what we know to be true. We cannot stop preaching and teaching the Scriptures. We cannot stop saying the truth about male and female, about human beings, male and female made in the image of God. We cannot stop speaking about what marriage is and is not. We can’t stop speaking about what God has commanded both to do and not to do when it comes to human sexuality. We can’t stop telling the truth about the goodness of God’s creation. We can’t stop telling the truth even if they threaten us with jail.


So it’s really important to recognize that at least at this point, the Scottish government dared by J.K. Rowling to come and arrest her and prosecute her on these crimes says it’s not apparent that a crime has taken place. You can add the word “yet” because you know what they’re up against. They know that enormous, enormous publicity would come to J.K. Rowling and to her cause and to the stupidity of this law, this repressive law if she were to be arrested. So J.K. Rowling, let’s just face it, really doesn’t have much to fear here. And I want to say this publicly, I am thankful to her for daring the government in this way and for standing her ground. But those who are really threatened here are pastors of churches in Scotland, are people working in companies in Scotland, are students on campuses in Scotland, people in Scotland who do not have the power and the notoriety and the social standing, nor the Twitter followers, of J.K. Rowling.


But I know some of you’re saying, “Well, that’s Scotland. That’s across the Atlantic Ocean. No real problem like that here.” Well, if you think that, you’re fooling yourself in one sense. In another sense, yes, there are protections when it comes to, say, the U.S. Constitution that do not prevail in some other places, including in places like Scotland. It’s not the same thing as the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. And yet it’s also true that there is enormous pressure being brought by those on the cultural Left, those who are the warriors for the sexual revolution, the LGBTQ cause, to bring that same logic here. And frankly, it already prevails in many settings such as on college and university campuses in the United States, where frankly, it might as well be Scotland.

Part II

Two Scientists Make a Brave Argument on Language and Reality: The Big Problem With ‘Sex Assigned at Birth’

But it is also interesting that the conversation here is a bit different. And even yesterday, the New York Times ran an article, and I appreciate this, with the headline, “The Problem with Saying “Sex Assigned at Birth”.


Now, this isn’t the opinion of the Times, but they did run this piece by two authors, Alex Byrne, a professor of philosophy at MIT, and Carole K. Hooven, an evolutionary biologist who is also non-resident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and an associate in the psychology department at Harvard. The article is about the danger of using what you now hear so much in the popular culture, “sex assigned at birth.”


Now, what we should appreciate is the fact that these two very prominent academics who put themselves on the line to say that implies that that’s all that took place, that there was just some kind of arbitrary assignment of sex at birth. They go on to say that denies the basic difference in physical constitution between male and female. They acknowledge that of course, as we said, there are a rare number, a very small percentage of human beings at which it isn’t clear. But for the vast, vast majority, and frankly all the contested cases we’re talking about here, it is a very simple matter to look at a baby born and say that’s a boy or that’s a girl. And these two academics are coming back and saying if you’re going to refer to that merely as “sex assigned at birth,” well, the logic of their argument is that’s going to cost lives.


Now, for one thing, as they point out, the female body in the male body, the chromosomal structure of the male and the female, they’re different. There are different physical vulnerabilities. There are different medical dangers. They write this. “Sex matters for health, safety, and social policy, and interacts in complicated ways with culture.” They continue, “Women are nearly twice as likely as men to experience harmful side effects from drugs, a problem that may be ameliorated by reducing drug doses for females. Males meanwhile are more likely to die from COVID-19 and cancer,” and, well, they go on to different behavioral characteristics. They say they’re really not arguing that assigned sex will increase the death toll, and yet the logic of what they’re saying is that that is exactly what will happen, and for that matter, has happened.


Later, they make this very brave statement. It tells you something about our strange times that this is a brave statement. “More generally, the interaction between sex and human culture is crucial to understanding psychological and physical differences between boys and girls, men and women.” They went on. “We cannot have such understanding unless we know what sex is, which means having the linguistic tools necessary to discuss it.” As a part of the problem, here, an example, they point to instructions given to journalists with the Associated Press where those journalists are warned that if you refer to women as female, it could be objectionable because “it can be seen as emphasizing biology”. Well, these two scientists come back and say, “Well, sometimes biology turns out to be really, really important.”


Later in the article, these two scientists write, “Saying that someone was assigned female at birth suggests that the person’s sex is at best a matter of educated guesswork.” As they make very clear in the vast, vast, vast majority of cases, it is not guesswork at all. Now, as I said, one of these authors is an evolutionary biologist. In a kind of hilarious way, it comes out in the argument in this article where it is pointed out, given the evolutionary argument, that there were animals before there were human beings, and those animals were also, as they reproduced, they were reducible to male and female. Now, we don’t believe in the evolutionary argument. We don’t believe in the evolutionary sequence, but we would agree on this. Yes, the animals, we do know the difference between male and female. And so in their own instinctive way, do the animals. And you know that’s true because if they hadn’t figured this out, we would have no little animals, and we do.


Now, I do want to point out that these two authors seem to be insisting that they’re not intending to enter into the LGBTQ debate at all. They are simply concerned about language and the compromise and subversion that can happen when language is misused like this term, “sex assigned at birth.” But you know what? We are living in a society where those pushing the LGBTQ revolution, they can’t have what they want if they refer to sex as anything other than “sex assigned at birth.” Because once they admit that there’s something physically real there, well, there goes their case. So I’ll just predict that despite this very courageous article and the clarity with which it makes many of its arguments, it’s not going to get very far because those who are committed to this revolution, they are totally committed. And if reality was a problem, they couldn’t have started it, much less continue to push it.

Part III

A New Ministry Vocation of Animal Chaplain? You Won’t Find That in the Biblical Worldview — Or At The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

But next, while we’re talking about reality as sometimes a problem, I just have to refer to an article that appeared at this Associated Press telling us about a new vocational category you may not have known of, and of course it’s a particular interest to me because I’m president of a theological seminary. It is because the Associated Press tells us about a new vocational category of animal chaplains. Okay, you heard that right. This doesn’t just mean chaplains who love animals. It doesn’t mean animals who are chaplains. It means human beings who are animal chaplains. 


Don’t worry, no program is going to emerge about this at Southern Seminary.


The article starts out in the context here is what’s called mainline Protestantism or liberal Protestantism. In this case, we’re told about a woman who as a girl was a Presbyterian preacher’s kid, and she, “Noticed that the chipmunks and other animals crumpled by the side of the road weren’t treated with the same compassion shown to people.” So she’s saying she saw a problem as a child. Dead animals weren’t treated with the same respect as dead people. “At a very young age, I began picking up those little animals, putting them in my lunchbox and giving them burials the way my father did when he was working with humans.” The woman remembers that when she was a girl, she tended to conclude those funerals with, “May the force be with you.”


But the article, and remember this is the Associated Press, it continues. “Today, Bowen is an interfaith animal chaplain with credentials from Chicago Theological Seminary, One Spirit Interfaith Seminary, and Emerson Theological Institute. And she continues to create rituals that both dignify the death of animals and empowered those grieving that death, whether it’s the loss of a loyal golden retriever or the untimely death of a feisty beloved goat.”


Okay, so you got to hear more about the goat. The Associated Press report continues. “Bowen remembers getting the call from the Animal Sanctuary in 2022, reporting a favorite goat had been fatally wounded in a vehicle accident. Bowen led sanctuary staff and volunteers in a ritual that involved writing letters to the goat on dissolvable paper then dropping them in a bowl of water.” Thereby the article says, “Representing all of the tears that were being shed or the tears that people felt they could not shed.” The article continues. “She also held a furry wake where humans gathered alongside other goats and sheep to share stories about the goat’s antics. Bowen left the group with a wind chime placed where the accident happened.” All that’s just prelude to telling us about this new field of animal chaplaincy, which we are told, “Is nascent. That means it’s just beginning but growing and involves ministering to animals, pet owners, animal care providers, and entire communities affected by wildlife conflicts.”


Bowen, the animal chaplain covered in the story, said, “This is beyond animal blessings and pet funerals. What we are talking about are deep, systemic, and existential questions about our relationships with other species.” One of the fathers of this movement is identified as Scott Campbell, “a veterinary chaplain at the Washington State University School of Veterinary Medicine” and he said, “It was seeing the toll of the veterinary field up close that drew him to becoming a veterinary chaplain.”


Getting to the bottom line issues here, the article later reports, “Animal loss can also trigger existential questions about God’s existence and character or whether animals are in the afterlife. Trained chaplains aren’t there,” according to this article, “to provide answers, but are familiar with a range of religious and spiritual worldviews and can help people make meaning from their circumstances.” I’ll just say by the way that it is not an assignment of the Christian minister to help people make meaning from their circumstances.


Before we leave the article, it also states this. “Because veterinary and animal chaplaincy are still emerging fields, there’s little consistency around training and credentials.” I’ll just add to that. You bet. Again, the article continues. “Ordination is common for non-animal chaplains who work in highly institutionalized settings like hospitals or the military, but it’s rarely a requirement for animal chaplains. Financial compensation is also inconsistent with some animal chaplains charging. Hourly rates are being paid by an institution and others working on a volunteer basis and accepting donations.”


Okay, we’re going to stop here and I just hope you have noticed what you need to notice in all of this, and that is that the animals aren’t paying the salaries, that the animals are not holding the funerals. These are persons described as animal chaplains but they are not chaplains to the animals. They are chaplains to other human beings in the name of the animals. All of what you have described here as what these chaplains do is described as having to do with orchestrating human behavior in the name of animals.


Here’s where the Christian worldview has to intervene and just remind us as a matter of theological sanity, that what you have in the opening verses the opening chapters of Genesis is a lot more than this, but it is not less than this. It’s a very clear set of distinctions, the distinction between the water and the earth, the distinction between the earth and the heavens, the distinction between animals and plants, the distinction between human beings and all the other creatures, human beings alone made in God’s image, and human beings. Yet you’re there because this has really taken us back to the beginning of The Briefing today, the distinction between male and female as created, he them.


Getting those distinctions fuzzy, much less deliberately seeking to subvert them, is just giant theological trouble. But you look at an article like this, let’s just say this is way downstream. When you’re talking about big theological trouble, you don’t go from orthodox biblical Christianity to declaring yourself an animal chaplain and sounding wind chimes out in the middle of a field. And even as we look at the manifest nonsense, the religious confusion, the theological syncretism in this kind of story, we also need to understand, it does affirm something that these folks are not acknowledging in the least, and that is that there is an impulse within them, within human beings, not within the animals. There’s an impulse, there’s a knowledge, there’s a sense within human beings that there are deep, deep questions that have to be answered, that there is a before life and there is an afterlife that demands a question.


That there is built within us what the reformer John Calvin called a sensus divinitas, that is to say a divine sense, which means we actually know when we close our eyes that we were created and that there is a creator. We are the creature. There’s much more to it than that, but there’s not less to it than that. Wow, was this interesting? You start out with hate crimes legislation in Scotland and you see the threat that comes there, and then you might think there’s a lot less threat in terms of the story about the animal chaplains here in the United States. And I’ll just say, “Well, yeah. In one sense there is. On the other hand, it’s all part of one picture.” And it all comes back to the bottom line, that if you reject biblical Christianity, you’re not going to be less religious. Your religion’s just going to take some other frankly ridiculous form.

I’m happy to tell you that Southern Seminary’s next Preview Day is coming up and it’s coming up fast. 


It’s going to be on Friday, April the 12th. In our secular age, we see an increasing need for those who are called to ministry, and we see the need for them to be trained with the highest level of biblical and theological education for a lifetime of faithful service and faithful conviction. That’s why Southern Seminary is committed to providing rigorous theological education that you and the church can trust. That preview day, April the 12th, you’ll tour our beautiful campus, meet our world-class faculty, and learn how God is using Southern Seminary to train faithful ministers of the gospel. Listeners to The Briefing, now get this, can register for free at by using the code, no, you’ve already figured this out, TheBriefing. I look forward to seeing you there.


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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