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Lawfare against tyranny: New Case in Iowa

Iowa bureaucrats have written up a FAQ about a 2007 Iowa "public accommodations" law. This FAQ says that churches whose services are open to the public or any church services such as daycares are subject to the Iowa laws against "discrimination" on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. See the ADF brief here.

The ADF is completely right to see this as a direct, sweeping, broadside attack on the ability of churches in Iowa to preach and proclaim the truth concerning sexual orientation and gender identity. Church services are by their very nature open to the public, especially for churches that attempt to evangelize and actively desire to invite non-members to hear the gospel, and church-run facilities such as schools and daycares do usually permit non-members to use them. That does not mean that they have no distinctive religious identity nor that they do not serve, in the Commission's words, a "bona fide religious purpose."

But a failure to allow men to use women's bathrooms and any preaching of conservative norms on "sexual orientation and gender identity" might make homosexuals and transgenders feel "unwelcome" and might fail to "accommodate" them, and hence, given the Commission's interpretation, would be against the law if the church services are open to the public.

The ADF is rightly taking the fight to the other side, filing a pre-enforcement lawsuit against the Commission's "interpretation" of the 2007 public accommodations law.

Remember when we were told that the homosexual agenda wouldn't affect your church's sermon content and that you were a crazy conspiracy nut if you thought that it would? Yeah, me too.

Let me note, too, the strange, strange concept of a "bona fide religious purpose" that the Commission is trying to impose. Apparently they think of any "bona fide religious" service as akin to the meetings of the votaries of some gnostic mystery cult, from which outsiders are excluded. This takes the privatization of religion to a whole new level. Barack Obama not-so-subtly changed "freedom of religion" to "freedom of worship." Now apparently the only thing that is allowed is "freedom of top-secret worship."

One could argue that whoever wrote the FAQ is just living in such a secularist bubble as to have no idea how churches actually operate. I suppose that's possible, but even so, whoever it was apparently thinks that his idea of "no outsiders" is the only way that churches should be free to operate, without government-imposed constraints on what is said or on, for goodness' sake, bathroom use.

But I strongly suspect that the power grab was deliberate and that the person (or people) who wrote the interpretation knew full-well what new and complete control this would give the Commission over all normal church activities in all churches in Iowa.

It would be difficult to express how much praise is due to the ADF for being on top of this and for taking the initiative in opposing it. Meanwhile, churches in Iowa and everywhere else should use their freedoms right now, loud and clear. Freedoms that are not used are more likely to be lost. While you're at it, tell "Sarah" that "she" can't use the women's bathroom or go on the ladies' retreat.

If Georgi Vins and many others could go to the Gulag for preaching the Gospel without the permission of the state, if Christian martyrs could face death for their beliefs over two thousand years, we in the United States can surely preach and teach in our churches the truth of the natural law concerning men and women and take what comes.

Go, ADF.

Comments (51)

"Remember when we were told that the homosexual agenda wouldn't affect your church's sermon content and that you were a crazy conspiracy nut if you thought that it would? Yeah, me too."

Yep, that was yesterday, and now as far as I can tell LGBT activists are supporting the commission. At the very least, their silence is deafening. I have not seen any denouncing in media outlets like the NY Times.

On the upside, I do think the odds are in the ADFs favor. Even the most liberal judges are going to struggle siding with the Commission, and the Commission may just backpedal before that happens anyway. Either way, even if it is struck down or changed, this does indicate exactly where LGBT activists want to go. They can no longer pretend they do not want the power to regulate churches.

Just to note, the recent judicial strike down of HB 1523 in Mississippi gives me some pause. Im no lawyer, but if that is allowed to stand, could it set a new legal precedent that would allow this Commission in Iowa to regulate churches?

That's an interesting connection, and I'm not sure. I don't think the sweeping strikedown of HB1523 is going to stand. If it does, what will essentially happen (I fear)is that judges will be massively legislating from the bench and even meta-legislating. At this point it's difficult to know what form that would take. Allegedly 1523 is about "businesses" and public officials and allowing those categories to "discriminate" under conscience protection. If states are not allowed to allow (one's head starts to whirl) that "discrimination," what exactly does that even mean? That all states have to have aggressive anti-discrimination laws in place with no conscience exceptions? What do those laws have to look like? Would they be written by judges to have to include churches? I'm going to say probably not, but the strikedown of 1523 was so bizarre that it's difficult to know what sort of bench legislation will be the ultimate result of the appeals process.

HB 1523 also specifically protects religious organizations which specifically includes churches. This is why I was making the connection with what the Commission in Iowa is doing. If the judges say that states cannot pass laws that forbid Christian churches from being stripped of tax exempt status or penalized in any other way by the state, and this stands as the new "Constitutional" precedent, on what basis can this Iowa ruling not stand also? That's what I was wondering. Maybe I'm just reading too much into things.

I also don't think these will stand either, but it does look like a deliberate attempt at testing the waters.

Indeed, if the courts enforce "tolerance" within the church facility itself, what logical stopping point is there that prevents them from demanding that the theological content does not create a "hostile environment"?

That's pretty much what ADF is saying. In fact, the law evidently does explicitly refer to making people of various sexual orientations and gender identities feel "unwelcome" in one's "public accommodation," so there you go. If the public accommodation law applies to church services open to the public, then you can't say anything in church services open to the public that makes mascot groups feel unwelcome.

Legislators, at both the state and federal level, need to realize something: the judges think they are above the law. They need to take note that passing laws is not going to do the trick as long as judges can just strike them down without any fear. Legislators DO have a tool in their toolbox, but they have refused to use it so far. The federal constitution, and most (if not all) state constitutions provide that the legislature can impeach a judge on the right grounds. For feds, there is a clause of "during good behavior" for how long they hold office. I don't know if that phrase has a lot of historical precedent, but I suspect not, because judges are impeached so infrequently.

I would argue that as long as judges are going to do things like legislate from the bench, and overturn reason and common sense by fiat, that's not good behavior. It's one thing for a judge to rule in a way I don't like but has a modicum of reason - that's what their opinions are supposed to present, a REASON to support their conclusion. When you have 4 of the 9 Supreme Court justices saying things like "this decision is lawless" and "without rationale" you have a pretty solid case that the opinion ISN'T reasoned.

St. Thomas, in defining "law", says that it is an "ordinance of reason". What sets us apart from the animals is our ability to reason and - given our social nature - our duty to obey RULES, _ordinances_ of reason. When judges hand down dicta that depart from reason, and CLEARLY so, we do not continue under the rule of law when we are forced to accept such tyranny. One response, which I have advocated, is for the appropriate officials in various administrations to NOT obey such dicta. To tell the judges "stuff it, you're off your rocker and your insanity will not rule here." This is particularly appropriate for the President and administration officials, because all three arms of the federal government have a co-equal role in upholding the Constitution. The President would be remiss in following a law that he was convinced was not constitutional, even if the Supreme Court said it was, if he could not see their rationale as being "of reason". There is a reason for he separation of powers: the Founders themselves SAID that the judiciary has no executive powers just so that they could not enforce their own decisions. The correct understanding of the separation, then, is that the executive CAN choose to enforce their decisions, or choose not to if they are irrational.

The other way is for the legislature (or upper house, if that's what the rule says) can find a judge who issues irrational opinions to be no longer acting in good behavior. I don't think that we need to use a definition of "insane" that would support incarcerating someone in an asylum against their will in order to find that a judge's decisions cannot be allowed to continue because they depart from reason. The legislature SHOULD be using their powers to restrain irrational judgments that make their laws empty words. They should fight back against these judges. They should use the tools put in their hands.

Alternatively, they can just act like the judges don't exist. The strikedown of 1523 in Mississippi makes no sense. Exactly what is it even ordering the legislature to do? _Not allow_ people to conscientiously refuse to bake cakes? So what does that mean? That every venue in Mississippi has to fine people who don't bake cakes for homosexual "weddings"? How much do they have to fine them? The judge can't possibly have issued enough detailed instructions to write the _positive law_ that he appears to be demanding. He was just making a gesture in striking down the law that said that people _may_ refuse services for those reasons. It's not even meaningful to talk about blocking the implementation of a law that is, as far as I can tell, _intrinsically_ a law about _not_ punishing people for _not_ doing something.

That's a perfect instance for simply saying that the judge's ruling is meaningless and that Mississippi is going to ignore it go on not prosecuting people for not recognizing homosexual unions.

Part of the problem is that state officials all seem to think that they have to *respond* somehow to court rulings. Massive deafness to irrational and lawless legislation from the bench could be extremely salutary.

In the case of the Iowa commission, things are extremely sinister, though, because that commission has shown its great willingness in previous cases to shut down "public accommodations," and I think they will go after churches if they can.

So, there is an update on this story. The Commission has communicated with an LGBT activist media outlet to reassure that they are not targeting churches. I dont have the sarcasm in me on this one to even joke that it is actually reassuring. By my reading, the Commission is digging their heals in and standing firm with what they said in their brochure.


"Iowa’s law protecting LGBT people from discrimination should be overturned, two churches are arguing, because they want to be able to discriminate against transgender people who might come to their services."

...and this is how the LGBT activist media is reporting this story. This is more slanted than even I would expect of them. It seems quite clear they think it is absurd that the law would not prevent churches from "discriminating" against "transgender people". So, I wish I knew whether Thinkprogress reached out to the commission or the Commission reached out to Thinkprogress. It is a bit of red flag to me that the Commission so far seems to have only communicated to an LGBT activist outlet.


"Think Progress LGBT Editor Zack Ford, who interviewed Johnson, wrote that “ADF’s legal hypothetical of Fort Des Moines being found in violation of the law is imagined both in the sense that it has never happened and that it would never happen. Johnson noted that the law ‘has been consistently enforced, and the exemption consistently applied’ since its enactment in 2007.”

In e-mailed comments to The Stream, Ford said ADF’s concerns are “based on an invented fear that has no legitimacy.” “It’s absurd to believe that any governmental body could actually dictate what a church can preach to its congregation,” he continued. “Not only would the First Amendment prohibit it, the Iowa Civil Rights Act clearly does too. If a church service is not a ‘bona fide religious purpose,’ I don’t know what is.”"

Ford seems to have conveniently left out the part about the Commission explicitly stating in their brochure that worship service open to the public have no bona fide religious purpose. So, sure, the government wont dictate what is preached to a congregation so long as they do so in a way that the government deems to have a bona fide religious purpose. Which, again, is not a worship service. Ford is telling a half truth here. Nevermind the insanity of any government agency suggesting they have the authority to even determine what counts as a bona fide religious purpose.

Thanks for the update. I notice that nobody is even trying to say that if your school runs some other ministry such as (to use the commission's example) a childcare facility or (to add a similar example) K-12 school, you won't have to bow to non-discrimination law! Which could, of course, mean micromanaging any K-12 Christian school's curriculum as well as their treatment of gender-confused children or parents trying to gender-confuse their children.

But why did the Commission even write the brochure if they didn't mean the language. "Service open to the public" is right in the brochure. They have nothing to say about that except, in essence, "You're a stupid homophobe who wants to discriminate, nyah, nyah." The implication is not so subtle: "Of course we would never do that but when we do you'll deserve it."

Overall I am more pessimistic about the outcome in this case now that it is increasingly clear that the LGBT activists are backing the Commission. This should be the exception, but I have not seen them lose in court yet.


The Commission is now saying they are going to revise their guidance in these areas. It is amusing that they are saying they never meant the "church service open to the public" to actually mean something like a Sunday service. Their explanation makes no sense to me, and comes across as a convenient excuse to save face. So, overall, this is more good news than bad. It is still definitely alarming this Commission thought they could try to regulate the practices and speech in Churches at all, and I will be surprised if their revised brochure still does not leave them wiggle room to regulate these things (perhaps by still suggesting the Commission can determine Bona Fide Religious practice, with the revised version saying worship services now count as that). Anything short of churches are essentially sovereign entities not bound by civil rights laws is unacceptable. Apart from hard and even violent crime, I cannot imagine a reason why the law should be even getting involved in what churches say and do. The best news in the update is that the ADF is still pressing forward with their lawsuit. Im glad they are holding the Commissions feet to the fire. They cannot be trusted to do the right thing, and now is a good opportunity to get a new precedent set in the courts that re-iterates that the state really does need to be hands off with churches, the First Amendment has not changed. I think we have abundant reason to believe the LGBT activist will be fighting that tooth and nail and the court system is almost certainly going to increasingly side with their view of the Constitution.

Trial balloon.

Ah, cute, "Service open to the public" they are alleging means something like a church-run soup kitchen or something like that--in other words, it's redundant with the "childcare" illustration.

But that just pushes the question to all sorts of church things like Christian schools and, yes, daycares and their ability to control whom they hire, bathroom use, and so forth. The ADF should find a church that runs something like that where they offer a "service" to the community. Many churches do. What about a religiously run gospel mission for the homeless? The one in our city deliberately take no government funds precisely so that it isn't regulated by government controls on its message and mission.

Right, and what are these churches supposed to do; though? Ask for specific exemptions to run a daycare, school, mission, etc? I think that is problematic because of what has happened with the schools that have received new title IX exemptions. The LGBT activists quickly moved to asking to have all those schools placed in a database. Why would we think they would not ask the same for churches seeking exemptions from civil rights "law"? I have thought for a while that if nothing else, churches being numerous and independent would offer them some protection if they can no longer operate within the boundaries of the "law". Perhaps many could break the "law" indefinitely without being noticed. Maybe even the people who know and could prosecute dont because they dont care too. This would be akin to how laws against sodomy were rarely enforced. That kind of protection goes out the window if they are on an exemption list. It's hard to imagine that the exemptions will be permanent (or at least, we can assume the LGBT activists will continue to fight to have them removed whether they ever succeed or not).

It doesn't seem that the civil rights commission is remotely encouraging seeking exemptions anyway. The strong impression they are giving even now is that if we just get clear on who _must_ comply, even if it's a church "service," then by golly, they _must_ comply, even if run by a church.

Yes, I was referring to the church that was asking for an exemption. I dont blame them for asking, but I think we already know how that story ends if they were granted one.

I agree that is the impression given by their reconsideration of their rules. I dont see how they can even come up with any clear way of who must comply and when either. How well is that going to work if they say Sunday worship services are exempt but a daycare operation in a church is not? What if that daycare center operates during Sunday worship services (or maybe even a midweek service)? This idea that sometimes the church can say no to "trans women" in the womens room and other times they cant is just ludicrous. Do you see any clear, logical, sustainable middle ground between the Commission saying they just dont have the authority to regulate what happens in churches and the Commission saying they can regulate every aspect of what happens in a Church? Im not coming up with anything.

I dont want to suggest that Churches should be entirely lawless, obviously, calling your operation a church doesnt make you exempt from hard, serious crime. We already have police for that anyway. I am only asking about what these Civil Rights Commissions are specifically meant to do. They are either going to the *the* authority or *no* authority at all over churches.

A feminist philosopher might argue by analogy: The organizers of a dog competition decide to divide dogs into two categories based on weight, "Big Dogs" weigh 20 pounds or more, and "Small Dogs" weigh less than 20 pounds. Suppose my dog Fido weighs 15 pounds. Given the distinction between Big Dogs and Small Dogs, it is literally true that Fido is a Small Dog.

Nevertheless, we can easily imagine the organizers making the distinction differently. For example, they could have decided that "Big Dogs" weigh 15 pounds or more, and "Small Dogs" weigh less than 15 pounds. If they did this, it would be literally true that Fido is a Big Dog.

Neither way of making the distinction is intrinsically more valid than the other - their validity depends on the purposes and goals of those making the distinction.

The application to trans women should be clear. While it is true that trans women are not women, given the traditional distinction between men and women, given the purpose of fighting oppression and unjust discrimination, someone might argue that the traditional way of distinguishing man and woman should be modified, such that it is true that trans women *are* women.

On this view of making distinctions, theorists are like the dog competition organizers - they are faced with multiple ways of making distinctions, and select one based on their purposes and goals. More generally, theory is just another form of practical activity.

I don't agree with this line of thought. But I'm having a hard time articulating what's wrong with it. Thoughts?

"The application to trans women should be clear. While it is true that trans women are not women, given the traditional distinction between men and women, given the purpose of fighting oppression and unjust discrimination, someone might argue that the traditional way of distinguishing man and woman should be modified, such that it is true that trans women *are* women."

The distinction between man and woman is biological and is defined by reproductive role. There is a male role role and a female role. There are no other possible distinctions, there is no way to modify this. For example, this person (https://twanzphobic.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/the-miracle-of-twanzition-the-before-and-after-photos/) is a "trans woman" and just as much of "trans woman" as any other "trans woman". By that I mean, this person meets all the criteria necessary to be "trans woman". Some "trans women" may take things further in the sense they try to make themselves appear more like (real) women, but those additional steps are superfluous and unnecessary. The alternatives to the, as you call it, traditional way of distinguishing man and woman is to make no distinction at all. You basically have to say that humans are a single sex species.

As an aside, since the "bathroom wars" are a thing. The LGBT activist side wants to make everyone think the issue is about letting people indistinguishable in appearance from real women use stalls in women's rooms (in reality, this is a non-issue because no one will know). They lie, what they are really after is "trans women" like the one in the link above having the right to undress in, for example, the women's shower/locker room facilities at a public pool or gym. This is what they are really fighting for, and this is what is already happening where they get what they want.

"The distinction between man and woman is biological and is defined by reproductive role."

That's true, just as it's true the distinction between Big Dogs and Small Dogs in the example above is based on weight. Nevertheless, the organizers could have also based the decision on other factors, such as size. Similarly, the distinction between man and woman can be made based on gender identity.

So the question is: which is a better way of distinguishing between man and woman? By biology or by gender identity?

Answering this is like answering: which is the better way of distinguishing between Big Dogs and Small Dogs? By weight or size?

Again, I don't agree with this, but I'm not sure how to respond to it.

Both 14 pound and 15 pound dogs are still dogs. The distinction you speak of is just based on an arbitrary point on a scale. The biological distinction between men and women is not some arbitrary point on a scale. Its not like there is some tradition that picked some point on the male-female scale and we have just stuck with it, so we can slide the scale up or down if that seems more to our present society's tastes. There simply is no male-female scale. There are just men and women. males(men) impregnate and females(women) get pregnant. It is impossible for a male(man) to get pregnant or female(woman) to get another woman pregnant. That is how reality works. We did not invent this, it is just how things are.

That all said, if push comes to shave I have been leaning towards not even bothering to try to argue these things. The people who are suggesting there are men who can get pregnant are either lying about their true beliefs or stupid. Arguing with with either, in the sense of acting like they have an argument for their views, is a waste of time. Maybe I am wrong for this, but I lean towards just bluntly saying that what they believe is scientifically and logically impossible and just really stupid. I would rather mock them and make fun of them, they deserve it. I see no point in trying to be nice or try to act like their views are even reasonable.

You're right, selecting a point on the scale on which to distinguish Big and Small dogs is an arbitrary matter. But selecting between making that distinction based on weight or based on size is not like arbitrarily selecting a point on a scale.

This is even clearer in deciding between whether to distinguish men and woman based on biology or gender identity, where one way of making that distinction is more unjustly discriminatory than the other, according to trans activists at least.

Given this way of looking at things, one need not say something blatantly false like "Men can get pregnant." Obviously, men cannot get pregnant. But this is true only on the presupposition that we base our distinctions here on biology, which is precisely the point under contention.

It might be helpful to see this a sort of relativism. Take the claim:

(1) Trans women are women.

What some trans activists might say is that (1) is false relative to the biological conception of womanhood, but is true relative the gender identity conception of womanhood. The question the trans activist wants to ask is: which conception should we adopt? They argue, based on considerations of social justice, that the gender identity conception is superior to the biological conception. Note also that none of this denies that (1) is false given the biological conception.

Right now, the only response I can think of is to construct a parody of the argument. Say a trans fish is a human that thinks of himself as a fish.

(1*) Trans fish are fish.

If the trans activists are right, then one can just as easily argue that (1*) is false relative to the biological conception of lizard-hood, but true relative to the species identity conception of lizard-hood. But surely this isn't satisfactory.

I think this parody argument has force, but it doesn't tell us where the trans activist goes wrong.

We already know where the trans activists have gone wrong. They are just making things up. Gender identity is not real. I don't even have a gender identity. If some trans activists wants to argue otherwise, they can try to tell me what my "gender identity" is. Surely, if it is real there is some objective way for them to determine it. If they want to prove it is real, and a valid way to distinguish men from women, they can start there. How does that sound?

As long as they can't do this, it seems to me their views deserve nothing but mockery.

I realize I should have typed "fish-hood" in my penultimate paragraph in my previous comment, instead of "lizard-hood".

In any case, gender identity is simply one's personal experience or conception of one's gender. Surely such an experience or conception exists, just as one's personal experience or conception of one's faith or job or race or nationality exists.

Gender identity isn't a valid way of distinguishing men from women if we're speaking about biological sex. But if we're speaking about gender identity, things are different.

Again, it isn't being denied that, given the biological conception of womanhood, trans women aren't women. *Of course* they aren't women given that conception. That's not what's at issue here, at least given the argument I've been presenting. What's at issue is whether we should prefer the biological conception over the gender identity conception.

"gender identity is simply one's personal experience or conception of one's gender."

Ok, so what is the definition of the word gender then?

There are many definitions out there, but I'm attracted the definition suggested by conservative philosopher Christopher Tollefsen: "One’s gender is one’s persona insofar as it is adopted and shaped with a view to communicating some truth or falsehood about oneself. Well, which truth(s) or falsehood(s)?... We could say: The truths or falsehoods are those about one’s sex, and one’s embrace or rejection of the orientation towards the one form of the marital good (husband or wife), and one form of parenting (father or mother), that one’s sex makes possible."

That is definitely an interesting definition. I think it also highlights just how made up gender identity is (and I assume this was intentional). One can communicate their biological sex in gender identity terms, which is redundant, or communicate something false about themselves (that they are something they are not), which is made up (even if not intentionally made up in many cases). A fundamental issue is that a biological male cannot actually know what it is like to be a female and thus has no basis to even say that what their lived experience is that of a female. They dont know, they cant know, they are just imagining.

Anonymous, the problem is that the trans movement is trying to have the cake and eat it too. They are trying to play two mutually exclusive sides of the concepts.

It is very, very difficult to come up with terminology that does not play the game, but let me apply definitions I have seen used by the trans approvers. "Sex" is the distinction, based on genes, hormones, gonads, sexual organs, reproductive organs (which includes functioning breasts), and brain development required and suitable for the full and complete production of a new human being. The fully healthy male capable of the full range of the normal biological requirements for the male acts of reproduction requires testicles and penis and secondary features that go along with these. The fully healthy female capable of the full range of the normal biological requirements for the female operations of reproduction requires ovaries, uterus, vagina, milk-producing breasts, and secondary features that go along with these. To propose (which I have seen) that "sex" in this sense is open to a subjective choice of "division" of roles like the arbitrary and subjective division of dogs into above or below 15 pounds would be sheer idiocy and blathering nonsense, and (fortunately) very few even on the trans side try to claim this explicitly.

"Gender", so they say, is a "social construct" of roles and expectations and associations for men and women, consisting not only of sexual reproductive roles, but also of non-reproductive roles such as working outside the home, wearing pants versus dresses, having long hair or short hair, etc. These roles are changeable (and, indeed, have been subject to variation in different cultures), and thus are subject to change as society changes. They are determined by social conventions.

The logical problem for trans people is that they want to "determine" their own gender, but because it is a social convention, they CAN'T. Individuals, acting alone, cannot determine convention. Only society as a whole sets conventions, it takes conformity and coherence among most people to construct a convention, not an individual's choice.

What a trans person faces is that they don't feel right about the role that social convention says "belongs" to them. They don't WANT the convention to apply to them. Understandable, if it makes them uncomfortable. But they have no more right to pretend that the convention is not the convention than I have a right to pretend that saying "shove it, you A**" is a _polite_ way to speak to someone. Individuals don't decide the substance or extent of convention.

So then a trans person has the option, for example, of refusing to live according to the conventions set for them. They might simply IGNORE the conventions about male and female roles in society, and act as if those conventions don't apply to them. That is, to some extent, what a few trans persons did back in the OLD days before the 1960s. It means being at least partly an outcast for refusing to conform to convention. That's the natural and unavoidable outcome of not accommodating what society expects.

The option they are trying to create, however, is a claim that society has no right to apply these conventions to them. And the rationale for this is that "they don't feel right being cast as under man's (woman's) role under those conventions." To back that up as if it carried more weight than it actually does, they drop phrases like "I was born this way" and "I was meant to be a woman (man)." What they intend to convey by these phrases is that there is some innate, natural (pre-conventional) sense in which "I really am a woman (man), even though that's not what my biology indicates."

But this MAKES NO SENSE. Sex, as defined above, is all about biology (including brain development), and it is not arbitrary or dividable differently than into the male and female reproductive forms. Society cannot change a person's sex. GENDER CONVENTIONS are constructed by society and do not control a person's innate ordering, they are OUTSIDE the person. A person can no more have an INNATE ordering to being cast as a woman under the social conventions (as the "social construct" theory of gender goes) than they can have an innate orientation to live in a 2-story house rather than a one-story, or toward wearing a red belt rather than a black one.

The closest the trans movement can possibly come to having any consistent logical to it, is if were to change its tune from "we have a right to recognition" is simply to ask for social conventions to change so that they don't have to FIT a convention they are uncomfortable with. There is no right to such a change, all they can do is request it of others as a kindness: please stop applying the convention to me, and others like me".

It is debatable whether agreeing with the request really would be a kindness, but that's a separate consideration. Of immediate import is that many, many social forms regarding roles between men and women are rooted wholly or partly in sex as biology, and are not simply CONSTRUCTED out of pure arbitrary whim by society. Distinguishing these, which ought not be ignored for the sake of kindness, from others which are (or nearly are) purely arbitrary conventions (like the color blue for boys and pink for girls) would allow us to identify social forma that can be ignored - or changed - without problem, AS LONG AS THE FORMER CATEGORY and its social conventions are not damaged thereby. In the current climate, that's not likely.

Trans people are trying to play the "arbitrary convention" side of things by insisting that society has no right to apply its arbitrary conventions the way it does, and also trying to play the "innate" side of things by claiming that how they feel about the roles assigned by convention is innate, something over which they have no control. The logic can't work: either gender is a (more or less arbitrary) social construct and you don't get to decide what conventions are conventions, or gender is (at least partly innate) and biology is at least as determinative as "your feelings", the conventions are not arbitrary, and you have no right to demand that society change those conventions. Either way, trans people HAVE NO RIGHT to different conventions than the ones we have had for centuries.

I will also point out that it is logically impossible for a person to "innately" be a "really a woman, regardless of my sexual organs" if the conventions are arbitrary. If the conventions are arbitrary, then society could have constructed 3 or 4 or 10 or 200 distinct "roles" for people to fall into, NONE of them being what we now understand by "woman". If society had constructed 4 roles, and all of the roles that we NOW "assign" to women were divided up roughly equally between them all, except that ONE role (that of bearing children) wasn't assigned any to any of the 4 at all and thus was simply spread out among all 4 roles, then there would be no category "woman" for the person to "innately" belong to in that society, and they couldn't claim "I feel more like a woman". It is probable that the dysphoria they experience is CONTINGENT on numerous factors that cannot all laid to social assignment of the "wrong role".


The Commission has moved quickly to revise their language to:

"Places of worship (e.g. churches, synagogues, mosques, etc.) are generally exempt from the Iowa law’s prohibition of discrimination, unless the place of worship engages in non-religious activities which are open to the public. For example, the law may apply to an independent day care or polling place located on the premises of the place of worship."

This actually surprises me, I was expecting and even thought they were digging their heals in with the original language. Anyway, it is an improvement on the surface at least. The idea that they can still decide what counts as religious is very problematic. If this stands, churches will just have to trust the Commission that they will not intervene ever. I also think it is very odd the state thinks that if they are the guest in a church (as a polling place for example) that the state gets to make the rules instead of, well, being the guest and following the house rules. I cannot imagine that working the other way around, I cannot imagine a church that has worship services in a public school could dictate the rules in that school during those times. Even more so if there is another group using the building also. Which is also a problem for churches, what if there is a prayer service and a daycare running in the building at the same time? Does the church get to make the rules because the building is being used for a religious purpose or does the state get to because it is being used for a "non-religious" purpose? Before the transgender tangent, I mentioned to the effect that I dont see any lasting, stable middle ground between church control of churches and state control of churches. Even this revised language, as I read it, opens the door for some state control.

Anonymous, the "trans theorists" go wrong because they are being insane and not in touch with reality. Male and female are realities, and there is nothing remotely "unjust" or "oppressive" about basing policy thereupon. Is that the point of contention? You bet it is, but it shouldn't be, and someone who tries to _make_ it a point of contention is just proving that there is nothing so obvious and normative that people can't be crazy enough a to make it a point of contention. I could make it a "point of contention" to say that it's unjust not to treat dogs as humans or humans as dogs, but that just means I'm nuts.

In any event, what we're trying to do here is figure out how far this kind of insanity is going to be imposed upon the few sane people left, even those whose sanity happens to have (in part) a religious basis.

DR84, I can, in fact, imagine a _fairly_ (sorta) straightforward way that a distinction could be run, but it would still be really bad and tyrannical. Basically, the commission could try to split the difference by saying that if you do anything where you try to offer to the community or to the public a secularly valuable service and try to induce members of the public to come to your facility *on the grounds of* that secularly valuable service and *in order to* avail themselves of that secularly valuable service, then any facility used for that function, during that time, is liable to such laws. There would still be gray areas--e.g., if your Vacation Bible School could be billed as a form of daycare that parents want to use because it gets the kids out of the house in the summer. But schooling and general daycare would clearly fall on one side of such a line (the "secularly valuable service" side) while evangelistic meetings would clearly fall on the religious side.

I don't find this comforting, myself, even if they try to do it. I think we should go down fighting in a ditch for a church's freedom to provide fully Christian school education, soup kitchens, daycares, etc., etc.

Male and female, man and woman, are biological realities - the trans activist can accept these obvious truths. But what's being proposed here is a *redefinition* of male and female, man and woman. Thus the trans activist mantra: "You have your definition of 'woman', others have theirs." So the question isn't "Is womanhood tied to biology?" to which the obvious answer is yes, but "Should 'woman' be redefined?"

This is parallel to how same-sex "marriage" involves a redefinition of marriage. Since marriage in the traditional sense is heterosexual in essence, the only thing the same-sex activist can do is to redefine marriage.

The conservative cannot reply, "But a definition of 'woman' unmoored from biology would be an incorrect definition." This reply misses the point, because a new definition cannot be judged based on an older definition. An analogy: "Nice" today means "pleasant" but it used to mean "ignorant" and we cannot criticize the new meaning of "nice" by saying what it really means is "ignorant". Perhaps a more relevant analogy: "Girl" used to mean a young person of either sex.

Again, I don't agree with this, but I think this argument isn't refuted by simply pointing out that male and female are biological categories. The argument doesn't deny that.

Tony, that's a fascinating point about the tension between gender as biological vs. gender as social construct.

I think this argument isn't refuted by simply pointing out that male and female are biological categories. The argument doesn't deny that.

There is no _argument_. There's just a bare assertion of power based on emotional terms like "unjust." By the same token I could say that the definition of "dog" needs to be changed to accommodate the "pup community" of people who "identify" as dogs. I could say that the definition of "rape" needs to be changed to accommodate the pedophile community. You can say that any term needs to be redefined and that society needs to move with it, but some such redefinitions coupled with societal requirements are obviously immoral and insane. Such as redefining "man" and "woman" and forcing everyone to play along based upon feelings and "identifications." There are, also, multiple incoherences in the entire "trans" agenda. Tony has pointed out some. It is truly postmodern and utterly illogical and does not deserve to be treated seriously as if its assertions are arguments.

"I don't find this comforting, myself, even if they try to do it. I think we should go down fighting in a ditch for a church's freedom to provide fully Christian school education, soup kitchens, daycares, etc., etc."

I agree in full, the Commission is just wanting to get their nose under the tent so to speak. It is possible some of them mean well and truly do not believe that power will ever be abused, but even a well meaning authority can be tyrannical in practice and also in principle if they are not a proper authority.

"It is truly postmodern and utterly illogical and does not deserve to be treated seriously as if its assertions are arguments."

Anonymous, if you are still reading this, this is good news and bad news. Good news, they dont have an argument, so stop worrying about it. Bad news, they do have power and are clearly intent on getting more and more power. They are and want to force their nonsense on us...they are in effect theocrats bent on bringing all of us into submitting to their (stupid and falsified) religion. Again, I am only speaking for myself here, but arguing with them is a waste of time, just mock their views. They seriously believe women can have penises. They are that willfully blind or stupid. We do them no favors by taking them seriously.

It is possible some of them mean well and truly do not believe that power will ever be abused, but even a well meaning authority can be tyrannical in practice and also in principle if they are not a proper authority.

But it's tyrannical in and of itself to tell a Christian school or daycare that they have to take seriously the idea that men and women can "turn into" one another because of feelings of "identity," and that they have to allow bathroom and shower room use accordingly, or that the Christian school must not make students (or parents wanting to enroll students) who say they are homosexual feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. I'm afraid there's no well-intentioned way to look at this one. The law is pro-LGBTQ@#$%)(*& right on its face.

If I think I'm a dog, does that give me the right to urinate at any convenient fire hydrant?

The Chicken

MC, what's really frightening is that there are _literally_ people right now who claim to "live as dogs" and call themselves "the pup community." I won't provide the link, which I'd have to look up anyway. but you can google it. They go around in giant dog suits. The question you raise does sort of spring to mind, though I don't believe the author addresses it. There's also the guy who believes he's a female dragon and has had his ears and nose cut off and gotten tattooed all over to look like a dragon. I don't know how he demands to be addressed. The idea that there could be any _argument_ for such insanity, and for our being forced to treat it as normal ("not discriminating" against the "dragon lady" or "members of the pup community" and "using their preferred forms of address") is, of course, absurd.

If I think I'm a dog, does that give me the right to urinate at any convenient fire hydrant?

That all depends on whether you think you're a male dog (when you're really a female dog), or vice versa. "Gender identity" is the key in all of that. At least at this point.

"That all depends on whether you think you're a male dog (when you're really a female dog), or vice versa. "Gender identity" is the key in all of that. At least at this point."

So, isn't that a little like deciding whether or not it is legal to shoot a gun based on the color of the bullets?

I hate to say that in the old days, when a commoner believed they were the king of England, we didn't give them the crown, but, rather a suite with padded walls. This whole gender issue is an insult to science and to theology. The whole notion of inventing new civil rights has passed its sell-by date. I am not insensitive to a person thinking and suffering that they aren't the sex their biology assigns to them, but they should recognize it for the mental disorder that it is and try to fight it. That is an heroic battle. Apparently, this is not a time for heroes.

The Chicken

Lydia, those are persuasive points!

Interestingly, even some feminists agree. I just came across this on a feminist website:

"The mere fact of 'identifying as a woman', feeling like a woman, believing one is a woman, or declaring 'I am a woman', on their own are insufficient to make one a woman.... If you are called Simon and 'present as male', then the mere fact that you identify as a woman, which presumably means simply to have some sort of feeling or belief in your mind, will have no bearing on how anyone views you, and thus you will continue to be treated with the respect and deference that it usually shown to men."

from here: https://sexandgenderintro.com/trans-issues-and-gender-identity/

The author here though seems to think that *some* trans women are women:

"What it means to be a member of the social class 'woman' is that one is read by others as female, and is treated in accordance with the gendered rules that prescribe feminine passivity and submission to members of the female sex class. The vast majority of persons occupying this class do so because they have female biology and so were inculcated into this class from birth, through the process of gendered socialisation. However, given that woman is a social rather than a biological category, it is therefore possible for biologically male persons to transition into the role of woman, or, as in the case of these biologically male persons with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, to be socialised and treated as women from birth."

I think this definition of 'woman' is far more plausible than the the definition in terms of gender identity. Thoughts?

(Thank you for your patience in discussing this matter. I hope I don't come across as stubborn - I just really have questions on the issue, and I do enjoy discussing the issue with fellow conservatives.)

DR84, if defining 'woman' as subjective feeling is clearly flawed, what about defining 'woman' as a social (not biological) category? It seems that many distinguish between being female (biological sex) and being a woman (gender as social construction), so this isn't some strange redefinition of the term 'woman'. Given this distinction, one can accept the claim that trans women are biologically female without accepting the claim that all of them are socially women. The appearance of 'insanity' only obtains if we read 'women' as 'female'.

I think this makes much more sense than the gender identity move, but it still doesn't sound right. At the very least, it seems massively misleading to say 'woman' isn't a biological category, given that most people don't distinguish between 'female' and 'woman'. I'm not sure though. In particular, I don't know what linguistic norms would hold in a situation like this. Perhaps people should be taught to distinguish the two (just as philosophers make a distinction between justified belief and warranted belief, cf. Plantinga's work.) Or perhaps not.

DR84, sorry for the confusion, in my previous reply, the sentence "Given this distinction, one can accept the claim that trans women are biologically female without accepting the claim that all of them are socially women." should have read "Given this distinction, one can accept the claim that trans women are biologically male without denying the claim that they are socially women." :)

I think this definition of 'woman' is far more plausible than the the definition in terms of gender identity. Thoughts?

No, because there is still not any objective argument for saying that we have to treat someone definitely born male who has "transitioned" as female. The quote says, " it is therefore possible for biologically male persons to transition into the role of woman,"

Notice that it isn't even confined to people about whom some genetic _mistake_ was made at birth (that's the second clause). Just people who have successfully "transitioned." Do you know what that means? It means that if some man has a severe psychological problem, "feels" like a woman, but gets people to mutilate him and give him body-altering drugs relatively early in his life (maybe his parents were enablers in his horrible confusion and thus started giving him female hormones when he was a child), his body may be sufficiently badly mutilated and screwed up by a certain age that those who encounter him and don't know anything else _think_ he's a woman. We're still talking about cutting off this man's genitals--surgery which should be illegal, by the way.

So, no, that's still utter insanity. What this is implying saying then is that even if someone else _knows_ the situation (for example, a teacher who knows that the parents are doing this to a child), that person is morally obligated to play along with the pretense that the person who is being thus horribly harmed and mutilated and whose mental disorder is being enabled is, in fact, a woman.

And then, to try to relate this to the main post, it would presumably mean that everyone else in society, whether they know the truth or not, can be _legally_ obligated to treat this horribly harmed man as a woman.

Absolutely not.

The "appearance of insanity" obtains and is not just an appearance but is real insanity because all of society is being forced to treat this person as a woman.

Look, Anonymous, this is *all just made up*. This is all postmodern b.s. Nobody can be placed under obligations by such term redefinitions.

As far as the man with "androgen insensitivity disorder," the very fact that that person has a disorder means that the whole apparatus of "transgender ideology" doesn't apply. This is someone with a *biological* problem, including a disorder of the reproductive system, and the only way to treat that is from a firm stance within the order of nature. There will still be no biologically perfect outcome. But such people are harmed, not helped, by being lumped together with "transgender" people or by being treated from within a paradigm that says that gender is a social construct.

Now, I have to admit to _some_ impatience. I'm sorry that you're feeling bullied by the trans theorists into granting some credence to their craziness. But I have to say that it is kind of OT for this thread to be trying to explain to someone why "trans" theory is crazy in the first place. After all, we're talking about situations where churches and (already) businesses are _coerced_ into playing along with it. Plus "not discriminating" on the basis of homosexuality.

...but they should recognize it for the mental disorder that it is and try to fight it

No argument there. And speaking of mental disorders, to my way of thinking the broader, more significant one is this idea, as you point out, that "gender identity" is somehow *not* a mental disorder that ought to be properly identified and fought against.

Lydia wrote:

"...early in his life (maybe his parents were enablers in his horrible confusion and thus started giving him female hormones when he was a child),"

Btw, Anonymous, Lydia isn't just making stuff up; this *really happens*, and probably more often than any of us cares to admit. I'm thinking of one specific case in Tulsa, Okla, but investigating that single case has led me to dozens of others. And it doesn't start out as radical hormone therapy (nor end there), but rather the (lunatic) parent/parents "noticing that the child in question exhibits opposite gender tendencies/characteristics at a very early age," and taking steps to accommodate them. This is *clearly* an indication of the parent/parents'psychological problems, not necessarily the child's (at that stage of his life).

Lydia, I'd say that to construct and criticize the strongest arguments for transgenderism isn't necessarily to give credence to transgenderism. One can attempt to construct a strong case for external-world skepticism without doubting that the external-world exists. Moreover, as a conservative, I agree on virtually all of your prescriptive points: trans women shouldn't be treated as if they were women; sex 'reassignment' surgery should be illegal; society shouldn't be forced to bow down to trans ideology; etc.

The issue I've been raising isn't prescriptive, but descriptive: are (some) trans women women? If by 'women' we mean female, then the answer is an obvious no, and I'd say trans activists who seriously think biological males are female are crazy. But if by 'women' we mean gender (as distinct from sex), then the answer isn't so straightforward.

Granted, ordinary language doesn't normally distinguish between 'woman' and 'female', but why take ordinary language as normative? After all, philosophers regularly make distinctions that aren't found in ordinary language. And besides, ordinary language sometimes does make such a distinction: we don't call a 1-year old girl a woman; we say, 'My how she's grown, she's now a woman!'; one might complain without contradiction, 'She's no woman!'; etc.

Wouldn't making this distinction involve a radical redefinition of 'woman', akin to defining 'triangle' as a four-sided shape? While I think defining 'woman' in terms of a subjective state is like defining 'triangle' as a four-sided shape, taking 'woman' to refer to gender as opposed to sex doesn't seem much of a stretch.

But suppose that after all the relevant linguistic considerations have been accounted for, we find that there is a valid sense in which some trans women are women (as opposed to biologically female) - does it follow that they should be treated as women? No, it doesn't. Just because someone is an X, it doesn't follow that he should be treated as an X. For example, John is a fireman who later has an injury that renders him incapable of doing his job competently. In this case, John is a fireman, but he shouldn't be treated as one - he should be released from his job. Another example: Fred is the class clown, but he shouldn't be treated as one, since people shouldn't encourage his rowdy behavior in class.

In any case, this will be my last reply here for now. Thank you for the sharp discussion!

but why take ordinary language as normative?

Because the end-game is about policy and because this isn't just a game. Real people's lives are affected profoundly and destructively by "not taking ordinary language as normative" in this particular area.

taking 'woman' to refer to gender as opposed to sex doesn't seem much of a stretch.

If the person in question started out life as biologically the *other sex*, then it is a *gigantic* stretch. Someone (or several someones) had to make a *decision* to *do things* to that person to *get to the point where* people around him came to treat him as the "gender" opposite to his *biological sex*. And those things that were done were *wrong*, and the decision had to be made on the basis of *garbage pseudo-science* based on gender-bending theory that is then ruining this person's life.

This has to get started somewhere. Little boys don't just spontaneously start getting treated as if they are little girls by all of society out of a clear blue sky, as if they are sending out little "girl rays" that are making the people around them start constructing a "social gender" for them that is not in conformity with their biological sex! And the same mutatis mutandis for girls. And the same for women. Except in extremely rare cases of disorders where the person, through genetic accident, develops _biological_ characteristics of the opposite sex, the person starts out _known_ to be a boy or a girl and then people start *messing around* with that in order to *induce* the switch to a societal "role" that is out of synch with the biological sex. And that's morally wrong, biologically wrong, and medically wrong. Wrong in every way.

So, yes, it's a stretch. It's not just some philosophical, linguistic game we are playing here of saying, "Hey, I have a great idea! Let's define a new _technical_ meaning for 'woman' and do some interesting things with that."

Notice, too, the bizarreness of your last paragraph: Earlier you made it clear that this was, vis a vis ordinary language, a radical term redefinition. But by your last paragraph you are talking as if the *ontological objective reality* is on the side of the new, made-up, redefined term, and as if it's the people who treat a biological male as a man who are going contrary to reality!! He "is" a woman, but that doesn't necessarily mean we should "treat him as one." That turns reality on its head! It's those who are asking us to treat him as a woman who are telling us to treat him differently from the way that he objectively is.

This has to get started somewhere. Little boys don't just spontaneously start getting treated as if they are little girls by all of society out of a clear blue sky, as if they are sending out little "girl rays" that are making the people around them start constructing a "social gender" for them that is not in conformity with their biological sex!

Damn right! I know, I know - I'm starting to get a little emotionally involved here. Absolutely I am. I have it on very good authority that none of this happens by pure accident, as if to say these poor kids exhibit some little "sign" or other that someone (their parent(s)) don't initially pick up on and *exploit* to their own weird purposes. Then you have their "school counselors," etc.

Yep, I think we can say with something nigh to certainty (what the old writers called "moral certainty") that _no one_ who was biologically unambiguous as far as his external features has ever just spontaneously come to have a "social role" that was identical to that normally associated with the opposite biological sex. No biological man ever woke up one day, walked out of his house, and just _found_ people referring to him as "she." No unambiguous biological woman ever just "ended up" with people around her thinking of her as a man. No unambiguous biological boy ever just somehow "fell into" a social role in which everyone thought of him as a girl. And so forth. Indeed, the more we assign these roles to the realm of "social constructs," the more the incoherence of the trans agenda becomes, because the trans theorists know *perfectly well* that, left to itself, _society_ won't _assign_ people "social roles" that are the opposite of their unambiguous biological sex!! Indeed, that's precisely what they are ranting about and trying to change and coerce! So where in the world does this "social role" come from in the first place that is a "gender" at odds with the person's biological sex? It has to be forced, required, and demanded _from_ society on the basis of some "diagnosis" made at an earlier point in time, by some cadre of "experts," or by the person himself, that this person "is transgender" in some sense that is *not* a matter of either biology _or_ social role but rather a matter of feelings, psychology, or phony metaphysics!

In saner countries, for instance India, males that are discontent with their maleness and willing to take drastic steps to rectify their maleness, these males are NOT, legally or socially, recognized as being women but rather as being eunuchs, a third gender.

The American conservatives may need to start using THIS language. Stop all the confusion of "trans woman". Use the plain English EUNUCH.

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