Tuesday, June 18, 2024

It’s Tuesday, June 18, 2024. 

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

Part I

“There Are Two Sexes: Male and Female” — With Remarkable Clarity Federal Judge in Kentucky Blocks Biden Administration’s Proposed Title IX Expansion in Six States

You will remember that just a matter of a few weeks ago, the Biden administration handed down reformulated guidelines for Title IX compliance. And this was big news, it is big news again. It was big news then because what the Biden administration did was to basically put transgender identity or non-binary identity at the very heart of the Title IX protections. And this takes us all the way back to the 1970s when this legislation was being put in force, and it takes us to the present where the left is trying to use the Title IX regulations in such a way as to push the LGBTQ revolution all the way through higher education and quite frankly, beyond. And so we weren’t surprised when under the guidance of President Biden in keeping with his assurances made when he was campaigning for office in line with the ideology of the left wing in this culture and of the Democratic Party, the administration promulgated these regulations.

There’s more to it even than that because the regulations were made further complicated and frankly further problematic by the fact that the Biden administration also undid some very significant clarifications that the Trump administration had put into place returning some due process protections that is what the Trump administration did to those accused of sexual abuse, cleaning up the process. The Biden administration has just and rather predictably caved to the left wing of its party, but this is going to come with real consequences and not only in terms of higher education as if you could say not only higher education, but ratcheting all the way through any form of education at any level that is affected by government funding. It all comes under Title IX, and that’s exactly how the left intends to steamroll the ideologies of so many different movements. But right now the LGBTQ movement through the schools, at every level.

And what does it mean? It means a biological male on your daughter’s high school or middle school team, or for that matter, competing against your daughter in terms of intercollegiate athletics. That’s what it means. The Biden rule would also allow persons to declare a gender identity, and that trumps biological sex in terms of using even intimate areas like changing rooms and locker rooms. So this really is a battering ram in terms of the LGBTQ revolution, but that battering ram hit a significant obstacle just in the last, say, 48 hours. That obstacle was Danny Reeves, the chief judge of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, who handed down a ruling, an injunction, that at least temporarily for six states, and that means Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, puts absolutely on hold the Biden policy. And what is so remarkable about this is not by the way that Judge Reeves is the first federal judge to do so.

That action was taken recently by another US district court judge, and you have similar cases that are going to be coming before other US district courts, and this is going to be an expanding issue because so many people are saying, “We simply can’t allow these Biden regulations to stand because quite frankly, it’s going to bring not only confusion in the locker room, it’s going to bring very real harm in particular to girls and young women.” And it flies in the face of what Title IX was intended to do in the first place. Now, the new rule promulgated by the Biden administration was scheduled to go into effect in August, at least for now, this judge in the States, as we saw, another judge had given a similar ruling that affected other states, other cases still pending, but right now we’re talking about the ruling that was handed down, the injunction that was handed down blocking the implementation of the new Title IX rule here by Judge Reeves, the chief judge of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

So let’s look at the actual ruling. Let’s look at the document. It’s almost a hundred pages long, but the most important section is simply the opening sentence, which is seven words. They are seven profound words. This is how the ruling begins. Listen to the words here, “There are two sexes, male and female.” That’s it. Seven words, one simple sentence. It’s a sentence that throughout virtually all of human history would’ve been absolutely non-controversial. It is we need to note not only something that throughout millennia of human history would’ve been incontrovertible, something that is deeply rooted in biology, which means for Christians deeply rooted in creation and the creator’s intention, but it’s also important to recognize that that understanding that there are two sexes, male and female, is the truth and is necessarily the truth, and the only truth that makes Title IX makes sense at all as it was promulgated originally.

The entire purpose of Title IX was to level the playing field in one sense when you had an inequity between males and females in the educational system, and most importantly, as most people think of this, in terms of intercollegiate and interscholastic competition sports. So the claim going back to the 1960s and ’70s, but as this was promulgated just fast-forward to the 1970s, is that there was overt discrimination against girls and women and thus there needed to be increased funding for programs for girls and women. And that included sporting programs and athletic activities such that if you are the president of a major university today or even just a small college or if you’re a principal of a high school, you’ve got to take into account that when you have boys sports that are funded at one level, you now have to have funding for girl sports as well.

This was an enormous boost to the entire universe of female athletics, both at the level of say middle schools and high schools and then of universities and beyond. But it is necessarily premised upon the fact that there exists in the real world, real males and real females. That’s the entire premise of the legislation. Now, as you might expect, the Biden administration’s not the first liberal or democratic administration to try to tamper with this. In his own way, Bill Clinton was tempted, Barack Obama more than tempted. But let’s face it, we’re talking about this right now because during the years he was in the White House, President Trump offered a very significant correction of what the Obama administration had put into place. And now you have President Biden is not only seeking to go back to everything the Obama administration had done, but quite frankly to go even further.

And you have all kinds of implications that come out of this. Number one, what would you expect if you’re going to confuse male and female? Quite frankly, you’re going to confuse just about everything else. But it’s very important to recognize that when Judge Reeves put this into words, he began with, “There are two sexes, male and female.” He then wrote this, “More than 50 years ago, Congress recognized that girls and women were not receiving educational opportunities that were equal to those afforded to their male counterparts. It attempted to remedy this historical inequity through the passage of the Education Amendment Acts of 1972, commonly known Title IX. And for more than 50 years, educational institutions across the country risk losing federal funding if they failed to comply with the dictates of the statute.” But it’s really interesting, Judge Reeves goes into the legislative history of that Education Amendments Act of 1972 that put Title IX into place, and he points out that the entire premise is that girls and women have been discriminated against.

And thus what’s really interesting, and I appreciate the fact that this federal judge is so clear in pointing to this reality, the entire legislation only makes sense if the femaleness of the female and the maleness of the male are absolutely firm categories that everyone understands and are now actionable by law. Later in his ruling, Judge Reeves points out that the legislative debate was “premised on the fixed biological dichotomy between males and females.” That’s what made the legislation, make sense. It was arguments about discrimination against biological females, girls and women, that brought it about in the first place. It was signed into law on June the 23rd, 1972, oh, the good old days when people knew what biological male and biological female meant. Judge Reeves in his ruling goes right to the heart of harm that would come to individuals, American citizens, but in particular those covered as students under Title IX, what harm would come to them if indeed the Biden rule were to go forward.

And that harm would be most clearly seen in terms of the harm that would come to female athletes. And in this case, it means girls and young women by the time you put together middle school and high school on the one hand, and college and university sports on the other, because you are talking about having biological males. This is no longer hypothetical. You know the case, you’ve seen the pictures, you’ve seen the video, biological males competing as females against biological females with all of the physical advantages that come. And so by the way, this is so well-documented, it is so well-known. It is also just absolute common sense. It is creation order. We all know this. At the very same time, you have a cultural conversation even now prompted by an animated movie coming off in Pixar about puberty in which the differences between male and female that come in the process of adolescence are talked about in terms of anxieties and all the rest.

But the point is that there is a profound change that takes place. And once you have a male body go through puberty and you have a female body go through puberty, you have very strong, very clear physical differences and to claim that somehow you can make competition fair when you put a biological male among biological females in those forms of athletic or physical endeavor, it is just a lie and everyone knows it is a lie and it’s a lie you can’t hide in a female swimsuit. 

It’s also really interesting, one of the points made by Judge Reeves is that when Title IX was adopted, the word sex wasn’t so carefully defined. Why? Because it didn’t need to be defined. Everyone knew exactly what it meant. When you say the male sex and the female sex, no one was confused about what you meant. The entire premise of the legislation is the fact that we know exactly what those terms mean.

The very moral imperative behind the legislation meant that there was no confusion over this issue. Judge Reeves also points out that Congress has not changed the definition of sex as used in the legislation. And so by any common sense, honest understanding, sex means what it meant in 1972 when the law was adopted, when the legislation was promulgated, everyone understands what it meant then. And quite frankly, the vast, vast majority of human beings all over the world, including in the United States of America, are actually pretty clear about it even now. Congress hasn’t changed the definition of the word. Conceivably, Congress could do so in terms of the mischief that Congress might do, but Congress hasn’t even done that. We’re not even talking about congressional action here. We’re talking about a democratic presidential administration promulgating this rule through the powers of the administrative state. And it just points to all of us, just underlines to all of us how dangerous the government becomes once it takes on this kind of ideology, and matches it with government power.

By the way, among the harms that Judge Reeves indicated in his rulings, not only the harm, which is first and foremost that would come to young women and to girls, but the confusion that will be foisted upon the schools, and quite frankly, it’s just an irrational understanding how the schools would handle this. And we’re talking about locker rooms, bathrooms, we’re talking about all the rest. And it’s also important to recognize the Biden administration pushed through all of this without acknowledging that this would be extended to athletics. The administration has actually tried to act as if it wouldn’t necessarily do so when it knows that this logic can only go in this direction, but it points to the fact that the political will, even among Democrats to pass this in terms of legislation, it is not there, or it hasn’t been there. It does also underline the stakes in the 2024 election and every subsequent election in terms of our understanding that if there were a Democrat in the White House and a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, you can pretty much expect this is what we would face.

Not only as administrative policy, but coming as the force of legislation and law, that underlines the stakes before us. But it’s also true that there will be religious liberty implications on this issue and that’s made clear in Judge Reeve’s ruling. In crucial sections of his ruling, he points out that you would have teachers and others who by the Biden administration rules would be coerced into saying things using forms of language from pronouns and all the rest that are incompatible with our own religious convictions. Government, as Judge Reeves makes very clear, should not have the power, doesn’t have the power from the constitutional tradition and from the Constitution’s text to compel individuals to use speech contrary to their convictions. But that’s exactly what the Biden administration intends to do. That’s exactly what the LGBTQ activist community is demanding.

Part II

Will Parents Stand Up When the Government Threatens Their Parental Rights? The Proposed Title IX Expansion Makes the Stakes Abundantly Clear

But before leaving this issue, I want to go all the way to page 63 in Judge Reeve’s ruling where he begins a section on the danger of the Biden administration rules or proposed rules that would go into effect in August, the danger of those rules to parental rights, because this is also very significant.

“The department threatens parental rights by requiring school administrators to ‘take prompt and effective action’ to accommodate the stated gender identity of each student, including young students.” You’ll notice that is absolutely without reference to parents. It’s absolutely without reference to parents, not by accident, but on purpose. As Judge Reeves stated by the second sentence of the section he wrote, “A longstanding right recognized by the Supreme Court is the right for parents to raise their own children as they see fit.” And he makes very clear that the Biden administration policy would violate those parental rights. You could have children and teenagers, young people, who are representing themselves as one gender at school and another one at home, and parents might not even be notified, and in any event, they would not be able to prevent it. Judge Reeves does a good job of looking at the political history of this issue, the legislative history on this issue, and yet he also looks at the role of the courts in interpreting these questions as well.

He writes, “As a practical note, ignoring fundamental biological truths between the two sexes deprives women and girls of meaningful access to educational facilities.” And so he’s writing here what is incontrovertibly true and he’s doing so with remarkable candor, “In intimate spaces like bathrooms and locker rooms, students retain a significant privacy interest in their unclothed bodies.” He’s citing there a federal court case going back years. And by the way, that is just necessarily true or quite honestly, civilization crumbles. Later in the same section, Judge Reeves writes, “At a minimum, students of both sexes would experience violations of their bodily privacy by students of a different sex if the final rule [that is that Biden administration version] became effective.” So the big news here is that this federal judge here in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky has handed down a ruling that at least temporarily puts the Biden administration proposal on ice for the states of Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

At least one other federal judge has acted similarly, other actions are pending. When you think about red and blue America, when you think about some states that are very much under liberal control and those that are under conservative leadership, just to understand what a difference this makes, because we are talking about some states on one side of this question and other states on another side of this question, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I believe the vast majority of parents, even in those blue states, have a really clear idea of how the schools should handle this issue. And they do not affirm the LGBTQ ideology or the demands made by activists. But I’ll notice one other thing, and that is that in many states, people just aren’t thinking this through clearly. And in many situations, Americans aren’t taking into account what is really at stake in these policies.

And quite frankly, there are at least some more liberal voters who are going to just go along with this because it’s the way of the cultural tide. And when it comes to their own children, they’ve got the money to educate them in an educational arena or context of their choice. That’s the liberal hypocrisy. It’s one we need to name and it comes with effects we must oppose.

Part III

The Cultural Creatives Are Overwhelmingly Liberal: Film Mogul Mobilizes Hollywood Elites to Support Biden Campaign, But Do Most Americans Actually Care?

All right, thinking about this issue as we are thinking about how this kind of thing happens, I think it’s important to recognize that when you look at the 2024 presidential campaign, there’s some very interesting patterns that are becoming apparent and they’re showing up in some unusual ways. So to look at this in terms of how the cultural tide moves forward, it often moves forward with cultural influencers. And so we use the term the cultural elites, and we really are talking about elite.

So you look at something like the entertainment industry, you look at Hollywood, when you look at the leadership in Hollywood, it’s about as elite as you can get. And by the time you get to the very, say, top of that pecking order, the top of that heap, it’s a very high, very lucrative, very well-paid heap as well. And overwhelmingly, I say overwhelmingly, not universally, but it is overwhelmingly liberal and not only overwhelmingly liberal, but overwhelmingly, overwhelmingly liberal. Okay, so the recent evidence for that is that President Biden went west for a fundraiser that turned out to be by the claim of the campaign, the most lucrative fundraiser in presidential election history, $28 million from one event, $28 million. How does that happen? Well, it happens because a lot of Hollywood figures put this event together and they showed up with their checkbooks. The event was headlined, says The Washington Post, by actors George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jimmy Kimmel, and also by a political celebrity, former President Barack Obama.

But the organizer of much of this was someone who is well-known in the film industry, and that is Jeffrey Katzenberg. He has turned out to be front page news for The New York Times in terms of his fundraising ability for the Biden campaign and the fact he’s talking to the president himself several times a week during this campaign season. He is turning out to be the Hollywood mogul, the movie mogul, who is raising tens of millions of dollars for the Biden candidacy and is being as clear as he can be about his opposition to the candidacy of Donald Trump. 

Peter Baker, veteran reporter for The New York Times, tells us, “When President Biden made clear last year that he was planning to run for another term, some important democratic contributors expressed doubt, he was too old, they feared, he was not up to another four years. It fell,” says The Times “to Jeffrey Katzenberg to tell them they were wrong when some still did not believe him. Mr. Katzenberg challenged them to come to Washington and find out for themselves, then arranged to bring the dubious donors to the White House to sit down with the octogenarian president to convince them he was still sharp enough.” The Times tells us, “Few have dived headfirst into the president’s reelection campaign more thoroughly than Mr. Katzenberg, the long time Hollywood mogul known for The Lion King and Shrek among others. Mr. Katzenberg has been one of the most prolific cast generators for democratic presidents for a generation.” So this is not a recent development, but it’s recent headline news. 

And as we look at this news story in advance of that star-studded event, it was already claiming that it would raise $26 million, which after the event, we are told that it did. Now $26 million, that’s a lot of money, may indeed have set a record for this kind of event. And Katzenberg, by the way, himself is very wealthy. He is, according to The New York Times, worth something ahead of $2 billion in terms of his personal wealth. Hollywood pays a lot of money when you reach that kind of elite status, but it is really important to recognize when you look at the cultural divide in the United States, you look at how even certain industries and professions line up. And so you have here a very clear signal that the cultural creatives, as they call themselves, those who are behind television, those who are big in the publishing industry, and in particular those who run Hollywood, they’re running hard for Joe Biden. And by the way, there is no evidence that they’re running hard for Joe Biden as Joe Biden. There’s a lot of evidence that they’ve been running hard for the more liberal democratic candidate in virtually every recent presidential election cycle, and they’re doing so because that’s where their values are, or at least they’re putting untold millions of dollars in trying to make the statement that’s where their values are.

And we’ve known for a long time that the Hollywood elite is so far distant from, say, middle America when it comes to its values. But we’ve seen that clash come lately. We’ve seen it come with Disney. We have seen it come with studio after studio. We have seen it come with controversy after controversy. But you know what? It is also really clear, and this became very clear in controversies over the last two years that the Hollywood creatives are so liberal, they will move in liberal directions even when it costs them business. Because in the strange moral calculation of so many in Hollywood, they must have really made a great movie if no one wants to see it. But when it comes to Jeffrey Katzenberg, it is clear that millions of Americans have seen his movies, including Shrek and The Lion King. But it’s also interesting that having made his fortune in this industry and frankly having made more than one fortune in this industry, Jeffrey Katzenberg is not on the front page of The New York Times because of his role in Hollywood making movies.

Instead, he’s on the front page of The New York Times because of his role now mobilizing Hollywood for the political left and in particular for the Biden campaign. The New York Times piece also mentions that Katzenberg is using his Hollywood ability and advising the Biden campaign and the Democratic Party about how to tell what is considered to be a compelling story as the Biden campaign is shifting into summer gear. And as the Democrats are getting ready, of course, not only for the long presidential campaign season ahead of us, but in particular for the presidential debate, the first debate that is going to come at the end of next week. So it’s going to be a very interesting period, and it’s really telling for us that The New York Times has a front page news story on the Hollywood mogul who is making such a big difference in the Biden campaign.

But what we need to recognize is that this is indicative of Hollywood. This isn’t just one major figure in Hollywood. We’re talking about an event in which he basically gathered the elite of Hollywood together to raise another $26 million for the Biden campaign. One very sobering reality for Christians thinking these issues through is to recognize that Hollywood has such a loud voice. Hollywood has so much influence. Hollywood is making the movies that even so many conservatives buy tickets to see, and so many parents take their children to see. The point I’m raising is simply that when it comes to this kind of cultural equation, we are outgunned.

But it’s interesting to note, we’re not always outvoted. And at least one of the things we need to keep in mind is that a front page focus on Hollywood is not always to the advantage of Hollywood. And we can only hope that when it comes to telling political and moral stories, America is not buying what Hollywood is selling and showing.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing. 

For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter or X by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com

I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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