A Florida Baptist executive penned an open letter May 18 urging the state’s governor to ignore directions from the Obama administration to allow transgender students to use the school bathroom of their choice instead of the one that corresponds to their biological gender at birth.
Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, said by issuing joint policies the United States Department of Education and Department of Justice “hope to intimidate local public schools, colleges and universities into adopting a number of polices relating to transgender youth and young adults” that “would be harmful to our children and our society as a whole.”
“As I am sure you are aware, the impacts of the policies in question are not limited to restrooms,” Green wrote Gov. Rick Scott on behalf of the State Board of Missions. “Quite the contrary. The collateral impacts of the policies being forced upon us are wide-ranging and dangerous.”
Green said the Bible is clear that God created humans as “male and female,” yet the federal mandate “would require schools to ignore this fundamental — and scientifically verifiable — fact.”
“It is impossible to miss how morality, science and pragmatism all line up in opposition to these policies,” Green said. “As a result, this reckless transgender mandate cannot be accepted. We urge you to use the full weight and power of your office to oppose this unconstitutional overreach.”
“On behalf of Southern Baptists across Florida, I implore you to take every step necessary to protect the young citizens of our great state from the damage these polices would inflict,” the Baptist leader wrote. “We urge you to refuse to accept these polices at the state level, and we urge you to support the local school districts which seek to do the same.”
A May 13 letter from the two federal agencies advised educators across the country that the government is interpreting anti-discrimination rules in Title IX federal funding to require that students who report a gender identity different from their sex assigned at birth be treated the same as other students with the same gender identity.
That means, among other things, while public schools can honor a student’s request to use a single-occupancy restroom, they cannot require transgender students to do so or disclose personal information not required of other students.
The rules, intended “to make educational programs and activities welcoming, safe, and inclusive for all students,” have been widely criticized by conservative religious leaders, including those in the Southern Baptist Convention.
“The state here wishes to use its coercive power not simply to stop mistreatment of people but to rescript the most basic human intuitions about humanity as male and female,” Russell Moore of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission wrote in commentary published May 13 by Religion News Service.
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., called the directive an “absolute demand for total obedience to the moral revolution.”
“Once again, what we’re facing here is the dissolution of a civilization,” Mohler said in a podcast May 16. “You simply can’t have any kind of civilizational structure if you’re going to undermine it at the most basic level, in this case we’re looking at the public schools as one of the most important structures in American civic society and we’re looking at the fact that in both the public schools and in public education as higher education, we see the demand here by the Obama administration that the moral revolution be received and enacted immediately in toto, simply on the basis of an announcement that might be made even by a single student.”
The Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Southern Baptist-affiliated convention in Louisiana, quoted pastors May 17 saying the directive endangers school children and urging the faith community to unite in resistance.
“We need to be praying for school superintendents all over the country tomorrow, that they’ll have the courage to stand up, speak up, show up and say the letter I got last Friday does not apply to this school system,” Pastor Steve Horn said in his May 15 sermon at First Baptist Church in Lafayette, La. “May it be in these United States of America, and may we as a Christian body in conviction of God’s word stand beside them in this fight against what’s happening today.”
The Southern Baptist Convention, which gathers for its annual meeting June 14-15 in St. Louis, Mo., adopted a resolution on transgender identity in 2014 affirming “God’s good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception — a perception which is often influenced by fallen human nature in ways contrary to God’s design.”
The resolution opposed efforts to alter the body to gender identity through hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery. It rejected “all cultural efforts to validate claims to transgender identity,” while welcoming “our transgender neighbors” into church membership “as they repent and believe in Christ.”
Last fall the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors held a first-of-its-kind “Transgender Confusion and Transformational Christianity” pre-conference on the campus of Southern Seminary.
Not all Baptists agree. Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., recently hosted a public meeting protesting a state law intended to overturn a Charlotte ordinance that would have allowed transgender people to use public restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.
The Alliance of Baptists, a progressive-minded group of about 150 churches, considered relocating its annual meeting next year in protest of the same law but decided instead to move forward with plans to go to North Carolina as a witness to “our distinctively Baptist voice for justice, mercy and love.”
Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists, American Baptist Churches USA and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, ordained a transgender woman to the gospel ministry in 2014.