March 29, 2016
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Tuesday, March 29, 2016. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Theology matters: Georgia gov. who vetoed religious liberty bill member of liberal church
Religious liberty, the sexual revolution: all on the line—frontline issues and headline stories coming today from three different states. First, the State of Georgia. Jenny Jarvie writing for the Los Angeles Times, writes,
“Amid mounting pressure from multinational corporations, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal on Monday announced his plan to veto a contentious bill framed as protecting religious freedom but that critics warned would lead to anti-gay discrimination.”Show Full Transcript
Now what we’re looking at here is a religious liberty bill; it was officially known as the Free Exercise Protection Act. It is a state bill that was mirrored precisely in terms of intention and in much of the language on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed in 1993 overwhelmingly in both the House and the Senate—no congressman, no senator voted against the bill—and signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton. But what we’re looking at here is the fact that that same law is now targeted by those in the LGBT movement as exactly what they must stop in its tracks, and that’s exactly what they did with the Georgia Governor vetoing the legislation that had been passed by both houses of the Georgia legislature. In a statement vetoing the legislation yesterday, the Georgia Governor said,
“I appreciate the efforts of the General Assembly to address these concerns and my actions today in no way disparage their motivations on those who support this bill. Their efforts to purge this bill of any possibility that it will allow or encourage discrimination illustrates how difficult it is to legislate on something that is best left to the broad protections of the First Amendment to the United State Constitution.”
That is a moral and political evasion. The Georgia Governor here is being evasive because it was the United States Congress after all that passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993, passed it overwhelmingly under what was understood to be a pressing need in 1993 and a need that was not adequately met by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is to say the Congress of the United States as far back as 1993 recognized that the First Amendment was not enough, and that’s why Congress overwhelmingly passed that legislation. Again, there wasn’t a single negative vote against it. But now the Georgia Governor acts as if it’s some kind of abstraction that this law would be necessary. Furthermore, he never acknowledged that the state level Religious Freedom Restoration Acts were necessary because the national Act applies only to actions by the national government, leaving religious freedom in jeopardy where state governments have not made a similar pledge. And that’s exactly what the governor vetoed yesterday.
The Governor’s evasive language continued when he said,
“In light of our history, I find it ironic that today some in the religious community feel it necessary to ask the government to confer upon them certain rights and protections. If indeed our religious liberty is conferred by God and not by man-made government, we should heed the “hands-off” admonition of the First Amendment to our Constitution. When legislative bodies attempt to do otherwise, the inclusions and omissions in their statutes can lead to discrimination, even though it may be unintentional. That is too great a risk to take.”
Now let’s once again look closely what the Governor actually said. He said that some in the religious community “felt it necessary”—those are his words—“to ask government to confer upon them certain rights and protections.”
That isn’t true. It was never true. As a matter of fact, the thrust behind this legislation was for the state government in Georgia to recognize rights that are guaranteed yes, by the First Amendment, and conferred by God. But there’s also the recognition that in the current climate, those religious liberties are under threat and thus must specifically be defended by law. That’s what the legislators in Georgia did; that’s what the Governor has now vetoed. The head-on confrontation between sexual liberty on the one hand and religious liberty on the other hand is one that is inevitable, and it’s one that the forces for religious liberty are losing over and over again. The big point for us today is this: If it will lose in Georgia, it can lose anywhere. And the fact that it lost in Georgia is no small fact, especially when you consider the fact that there was such economic pressure overtly brought against the Georgia Governor in terms of this bill, force for him to veto the bill.
Defending himself yesterday, the Governor Georgia said that he did not act because he was under economic pressure, but that flies in the face of the fact that that is exactly the dynamic that explains the Governor’s veto yesterday, and there’s more. The governor said,
“I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia of which my family and I are a part of for all of our lives.”
The Governor said that in a press conference yesterday. What he didn’t state is what he would do if indeed and when religious liberties are compromised by those who are pushing the LGBT agenda in his state. Furthermore, in defending his action, the Governor said,
I believe it is “about the character of our State and the character of its people. Georgia is a welcoming state filled with warm, friendly and loving people.”
Well, that’s the kind of statement you might expect a governor to make under almost any circumstance, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that Georgia’s loving, kind, and generous people will find themselves facing off in court over the very issues that religious freedom bill could have resolved. This also does not come out of a vacuum. He had stated earlier this month,
“I hope that we can all just take a deep breath, recognize that the world is changing around us and recognize that it is important that we protect fundamental religious beliefs. But we don’t have to discriminate against other people in order to do that and that’s the compromise I’m looking for.”
The crucial issue is that here the Georgia legislators believe that they had accomplished the very compromise the Governor had demanded, but political pressure and in particular economic pressure from major corporations and employers in Atlanta require the Governor to veto this legislation or Hollywood interests said that they would move their business elsewhere. And major corporations, including Coca-Cola, IBM and others were bringing very strong economic pressure on the state’s Governor. But the Governor basically tipped his hand, we now see in retrospect, earlier this month when he called upon people to,
“Recognize that the world is changing around us.”
Indeed it is, and Georgia has now become a major engine for that moral revolution. And that’s what is so important to us. If this can happen in Georgia, it can happen anywhere. It tells us that the moral revolution by economic and political pressure in terms of the presence of multinational and global corporations in a city like Atlanta—it now requires the State of Georgia to be a part of the moral revolution and will exact an incredible economic toll if any state like Georgia stands in the way of this moral revolution and all of its successive tidal waves.
And as is so often the case, that is fueled by a theological agenda as well. The Governor and his family are members of the First Baptist Church of Gainesville, Georgia, that is a congregation that is now identified with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a more liberal group than the Southern Baptist Convention. In a statement shortly after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage last June, the pastor of that church said,
“Each church will have to decide how to walk through this marriage equality debate. I think we should respect those who choose to allow their ministers not to perform same-sex weddings out of their own deep convictions and I think we should respect churches that choose to allow their ministers that right, for they make their choice out of deep convictions too.”
The pastor went on to say,
“As with most things in life we have to balance, in this case we must balance our esteem for the dignity of every person, gay or straight, with the harmony of the congregation we are a part of. It is not easy, but it is possible,” he wrote. “Jesus teaches us to love God and love our neighbor, just as Moses taught we cannot love our neighbor and treat him or her as a second-class citizen at the same time. I say this, I do not always know what the truth is, but I can always tell what love is. I believe love is the greatest of all and to do the loving thing will always be the right thing, most congregations will eventually find their way there.”
Now what that can only mean is that most congregations will eventually get to an affirmation of same-sex marriage in one way or another. Again, that was a statement that came from the pastor of the church where the Georgia Governor is a member. It is all of a piece.
When eventually the history of this moral revolution is written, it will be very clear that various forces were at work and in concert. They include political pressure, economic pressure—they include activism by LGBT groups. They include those who eventually reach the tipping point in a society where they decide—you’ve heard this argument so many times before—they are determined to end up on the so-called right side of history. And there will be theological and religious actors as well, and we shouldn’t be surprised to find them using extremely similar language, language that in the end means that sooner or later, everybody has to join the moral revolution. It is only, at the end of the day, for those who are forcing this revolution, a matter of “when,” not “if.”
North Carolina passes bill banning biological men from the ladies' room, backlash ensues
Next, the second state is the State of North Carolina. As the New York Times reports,
“North Carolina legislators, in a whirlwind special session on Wednesday, passed a wide-ranging bill barring transgender people from bathrooms and locker rooms that do not match the gender on their birth certificates.”
Now to state the legislation in other terms, what happened in North Carolina is very similar to what happened last year in the city of Houston. Voters there and legislators in North Carolina said that people ought to use the bathroom that corresponds to their biological sex that is assigned at birth. Now again, one of the facets of the moral revolution taking place around us is the fact that if you were to discuss the need for this kind of legislation with virtually anyone from just a generation prior, they would find themselves virtually unable to understand what you were talking about. But that’s exactly what we’re now facing. The moral revolution has arrived in the bathroom, and this is going to be an issue for some time to come. As a matter of fact, it is going to be an issue because even those who are pushing the moral revolution on the LGBT issues aren’t sure exactly where this is going. That is abundantly clear when you read their own proposals and literature. But what’s also interesting is that even as the state of North Carolina has now passed this—and that means the state’s Governor has signed this bill into law—the backlash against it has already begun.
Again, another story from the New York Times, this one by Motoko Rich:
“A day after Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina signed a sweeping law eliminating anti-discrimination protections for all lesbians, gays and bisexuals and barring transgender people from using bathrooms that do not match the gender they were born with, the battle lines were clear in a bitterly divided state.”
Once again, what we need to note in that opening paragraph is the way the issue is framed in the New York Times. Motoko Rich’s story continued,
“On social media and in public rallies, civil rights groups, businesses and politicians expressed dismay at the law, which was passed by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed by the governor within just 12 hours during a hasty special session on Wednesday.
“American Airlines, which employs 14,000 people in the state and has its second largest hub in Charlotte, along with other companies with operations in the state, including Apple, Dow Chemical, PayPal, Red Hat and Biogen, all issued statements critical of the new law.”
Now, going back to the story in Georgia with that Governor’s veto, it was known that the NFL had threatened that future Super Bowls might not go to Atlanta if the law had been signed, and now you have the news that in North Carolina similar kinds of threats are coming not only from groups like the NFL, but also the NCAA. Predictably, the Editorial Board of the New York Times came out against the North Carolina law explaining that the threat “exists only in the imagination of bigots”—that is, the threat that someone might find themselves in a public bathroom with someone of the opposite biological sex.
But here we need to note that even those who claim that they are for this moral revolution, they’re not for their 14-year-old daughters finding themselves in a bathroom with a biological man. That is where, when voters have the opportunity, they make their moral conclusions very, very clear, and that’s where the LGBT revolution is finding itself facing a very public opposition. But on the other hand, they have very powerful forces at their disposal. Just consider again: NFL, NCAA, IBM, American Airlines—we’re looking at a concerted, now corporate effort to try to force the LGBT revolution.
Just in time as if to cue the choir, the Washington Post reported yesterday that San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said,
“He is banning city employees from traveling to North Carolina on public business after the state passed a law limiting transgender rights.
“We are standing united as San Franciscans to condemn North Carolina’s new discriminatory law that turns back the clock on protecting the rights of all Americans including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. Effective immediately, I am directing City Departments under my authority to bar any publicly-funded City employee travel to the State of North Carolina that is not absolutely essential to public health and safety.’”
Now as I mentioned on The Briefing a couple of weeks ago, the State of California is actually considering statewide similar legislation. But as even some who are in favor of the LGBT revolution have made very clear, this is actually a form of political posturing that is masquerading as serious politics. In the article in the Washington Post about the statement made by the San Francisco Mayor, there was also this, a statement from the National Basketball Association:
“The NBA is dedicated to creating an inclusive environment for all who attend our games and events. We are deeply concerned that this discriminatory law runs counter to our guiding principles of equality and mutual respect and do not yet know what impact it will have on our ability to successfully host the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte.”
In other words, what it’s really coming down to is whether or not the NBA is going to be able to “successfully host the 2017 All-Star game in Charlotte, North Carolina” if indeed everyone is assigned the bathroom of their biological sex at birth. Just try explaining that to virtually anyone who played in that same league, the NBA, just a matter of 15 or 20 years ago. That’s how this moral revolution is taking place all around us.
Tragic irony: Cosmo mocks Indiana bill banning Down syndrome abortion while promoting model with Downs
Next, the third state on the line is the State of Indiana. As Mitch Smith reports for the New York Times,
“Indiana’s governor signed a bill on Thursday that adds broad limits to women’s access to abortions, banning those motivated solely by the mother’s objection to the fetus’s race, gender or disability, and placing new restrictions on doctors.”
That is a breathtaking lede. Here you have the New York Times telling us that the Governor of Indiana has signed a bill—he did so last Thursday—that, let me cite again the actual wording from the New York Times article:
“…adds broad limits to women’s access to abortions, banning those motivated solely by the mother’s objection to the fetus’s race, gender or disability, and placing new restrictions on doctors.”
So here you have a bill that says it is illegal for a woman to have an abortion in Indiana when the sole reason for that abortion is a fetal abnormality, including particularly, we need to note, Down syndrome or the baby’s gender or race. Now on what planet would it make moral sense to oppose a law that says that a woman shouldn’t have an abortion and that the law should not allow an abortion if the sole reason for that abortion is to abort a child that is marked by Down syndrome or a child only on the basis of its gender or its race? This is where we are in terms of the abortion issue. This is where we are in this country in terms of the sanctity of human life. The State of Indiana has passed this legislation and it is now facing its own enormous backlash, a backlash from those who are decrying a law that would prevent abortions solely on the basis of fetal abnormality or the baby’s race or gender.
We are now staring in the face just how the sanctity of human life is now routinely being subverted and undermined right before our eyes. You now have people making the straightforward argument that they are opposed to a law that would ban abortion when it comes to the gender or race of the baby. In other words, they are arguing that a woman should have a full right to abort a baby because it’s a girl when she wanted a boy, or a boy when she wanted a girl, or on the basis of race or on the basis of fetal abnormality.
The open embrace of the culture of death and the open rejection of the sanctity of life was made very clear in an article by Danielle Paquette published in the Washington Post on March 25 about the Indiana legislation. That article cites an obstetrician-gynecologist in Indianapolis known as Dr. Brownsyne Tucker-Edmonds, who said in a statement last Friday that the law could,
“…dissuade physicians from performing a legal medical procedure and, by doing so, imperil patients’ health.”
That’s how the language of medicine is now used to subvert the sanctity of human life, and it’s done so in public. Predictably, Betty Cockrum, identified as head of Planned Parenthood in Indiana and Kentucky, according to the Washington Post released a statement saying that,
“Medical decisions should stay between doctors and patients.”
In other words, the society at large, the Indiana government, has no right protecting any unborn life under any circumstance. Even though sex selection abortion is a major moral issue in many parts of the world, most especially in the nations of China and India, it is not believed to be a major issue in the State of Indiana. But the selection of abortions on the basis of Down syndrome is, and that’s really at the center of the controversy. And that is where we need to recognize the moral reality that the vast majority of babies now diagnosed as being likely to have Down syndrome are aborted in the womb before they are ever born. We are now as a society effectively allowing a search and destroy mission in the wombs of America, deciding which babies we will allow to live and which must die.
Back in the early 20th century, the German doctors came up with the phrase Lebensunwertes Leben, or life unworthy of life, and that’s exactly what so many are now saying when it comes to the diagnosis of Down syndrome: This is a baby who does not deserve to live.
That raises another issue when it comes to Down syndrome. Cosmopolitan magazine has recently made a major moral statement by championing Madeline Stuart, a 19-year-old Australian model who has Down syndrome, but has been modeling in Cosmopolitan wedding attire. As Joy Pullmann reports for The Federalist,
“Madeline has Down syndrome, but that hasn’t stopped her. In fact, her mother says, part of her mission is to use her success [that is as a model] to ‘change the way people discriminate against disability through gaining attention through social media.’ She wants people to know that Down syndrome is a blessing, something to be celebrated.”
Now what this affirms is what the Christian worldview affirms, and that is that every single human being is to be welcomed into the human family. And that includes specifically those who have Down syndrome. The pictures published online of Madeline Stuart show a beautiful and charming young woman. But here’s the problem: It is a massive exercise in hypocrisy on the part of Cosmopolitan magazine. At the very time the magazine is featuring Madeline Stuart, it is also running the very same day at its website an article attacking the Indiana legislation and arguing that a woman has an absolute right to destroy the baby in her womb who may be carrying Down syndrome. The worldview implications of the article by Prachi Gupta that ran at Cosmopolitan alongside the article featuring Madeline Stuart, the worldview implications are staggering. The article states,
“Indiana Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma is not thinking of the living and breathing women whose lives will be forever altered by these laws, however. Instead, he is thinking of the fetuses — or as he refers to them, the ‘unborn children.’”
Now let that sink in. Here you have Cosmopolitan magazine, and just consider the hypocrisy. You have a magazine that is featuring a model with Down syndrome and at the very same time, on the very same day, is running an article attacking the Indiana legislation that would have prevented her abortion. They are going further arguing for a woman’s right to abort a baby that is marked by nothing more than the likelihood of having Down syndrome. And furthermore, the article makes fun of an Indiana legislator who dares to refer to fetuses as “unborn children.” But that’s the worldview issue. Either the fetus is an unborn child or it is not. If it is not, what is it? If it is a human being, then it deserves full protection like anyone of us. If it is not a human being, then why does it matter? That is the ultimate issue we face in terms of the sanctity of human life, and that is the ultimate issue we face as did the Indiana legislature and its Governor in the question of abortion for reasons of Down syndrome.
Rarely do we see the issues presented so clearly and so starkly, and rarely do we see such a breathtaking display of hypocrisy—a magazine on the one hand featuring a model with Down syndrome and expecting applause for doing so, and on the very same day running an article defending the abortion of unborn children with Down syndrome.
All three of these stories also indicate the implausibility of so-called middle ground on these issues. There is no real middle ground on the issue of morality or on the issue of the sanctity of human life. Either we define things in terms of the Christian worldview or we define them in terms of the spirit of the age. It comes down to a choice just that simple.