Culture Friday – Forfeiting the race to save girls sports

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Friday, March 26th, 2021.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

Perhaps you heard South Dakota passed a bill that would require all student athletes to play sports based on their biological sex at the K-12 and collegiate levels.

This, of course, is a response to the transgender moment and concern about its effect on women’s sports.

In a surprise this week, the conservative Republican governor of the state, who said she had planned to sign the bill, suddenly reversed course. Governor Kristi Noem issued a “style and form” veto.

A word of explanation here. In South Dakota, governors may send a bill back to lawmakers with recommended changes instead of signing or vetoing what they pass. Governor Noem wants the measure to apply only to K-12 athletes, not college athletes, and she cited legal advice saying the measure would ultimately fail because of the collegiate provision.

AUDIO: So we could pass a law, then we could get punished, then we could face expensive litigation at taxpayer expense, and then we could lose. We’d have nothing but a participation trophy to show for it.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: The governor said she expected the punishment would come from the collegiate sports body, the NC-double-A. It has a policy that does allow biological men to compete as women athletes. She feared the NC-double-A would retaliate against her state if she signed the bill into law.

AUDIO: That means they could pull their tournaments from the state of South Dakota, they could pull their home games, they could even prevent our athletes from playing in their league. That’s their prerogative. So a fight doesn’t truly protect women’s sports and doesn’t allow women to compete ultimately is going to hurt South Dakota families.

NICK EICHER, HOST: John Stonestreet joins us now. He’s president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast. John, good morning!


EICHER: Governor Noem said she’d consulted with legal experts to support her refusal to sign, but let me quote a legal expert who disagrees. This is the general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, Kristen Waggoner. Here’s what she said this week: the governor “gutted protections for collegiate athletes and took away legal recourse for girls forced to compete against biological boys. We are shocked that a governor who claims to be a firebrand conservative with a rising national profile would cave to ‘woke’ corporate ideology.”

Now, John, I never thought I’d have to say: Do you agree with Governor Noem or do you agree with Kristen Waggoner? But here we are! Complicated days.

STONESTREET: Kristen Waggoner. Not only because she also is a Colson Fellow, having spent a year with us when Chuck Colson was alive studying Christian worldview, but also because she’s absolutely right on this one. This is a bizarre turn from a governor who had said from the very beginning she would sign this bill. It’s model legislation. It’s not anything uniquely troubling about this legislation. Very similar to what has passed in other settings, particularly in Idaho and other places. And people forget that the Idaho statute had, I think, about 14 different states that had signed on in an amicus brief to support it. The claims that the governor’s making don’t match reality. And the gutting that this bill has taken—appealing to birth certificates that under other laws could be changed and altered after birth to reflect one’s new gender or new chosen gender expression or whatever. The idea of — Kristen’s line that this removes legal recourse, that’s really, really important right there because if a girl is mistreated by being forced to compete against a biological male, she has no recourse. She has nowhere to go from here. So, if you don’t actually have any way of enforcing a law, how is it a law? Look, there’s too much smoke here. There’s something fishy. And the economic pressures are big and I would tell the governor to take a cue from North Carolina. Stand your ground. This stuff really matters. Protect all the girls that compete in South Dakota sports.

EICHER: You have said before: Christians need to develop a theology of getting fired. We need to be ready for this sort of thing. Maybe this isn’t precisely on point because you’re talking about individual believers and this involves the governor of a state. But isn’t this the basic point: the governor wants to avoid the consequences of what she says she believes.

I totally understand what she’s doing. But if you take a certain position that goes against the freight train of LGBT ideology bearing down on you, you’re tempted to jump out of the way. But isn’t this fundamentally the point about living the public life? You need a theology of getting fired, getting sued, getting voted out of office, whatever.

STONESTREET: Well, absolutely. But I would just nuance or add to that maybe in two ways. Number one is you particularly stand up for those things that matter the most. And the ones that matter the most are the ones that disproportionately affect the vulnerable victims of bad ideas. What this looks like right now is the governor has chosen a strange path and it’s going to lead to two consequences. Number one is she might — she seems like she’s protecting herself. I think that’s probably not going to happen politically. This is not coming off well for someone who had established such a strong reputation. But it’s also clearly coming across as protecting herself at the expense of others. And that’s especially the time you don’t want to be forced to, as Rod Dreher put it and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, to leave this principle of not saying what’s not true. This is a big deal.

EICHER: Well, John, I want to turn now to the 2nd mass shooting in about a week in Boulder Colorado … 10 dead, including a 51- year- old veteran police officer, Eric Talley, husband and father of seven. He was the first on the scene and gave his life for his friends. Both President Biden and Boulder’s mayor called him an American hero. But it was the statement given by Officer Talley’s father, that resonated with me.  Homer Talley told the local TV station his son, “loved his kids and his family more than anything,” And he added his son “believed in Jesus Christ.” What a testament! It’s heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. And I don’t want us to lose sight of that. A lot of things going on, a lot of talk about different issues. But we probably shouldn’t lose sight of that.

STONESTREET: We absolutely shouldn’t lose sight of that. I think that’s such a wise thing to listen to those words, especially in an event yet at an incredibly new speed, the narratives rush to take over what actually happened. And the narratives have proven to be either somewhat flimsy or just flatly wrong between these two shootings that have taken place in less than a week. It’s just exposed the corners, the ideological corners that we live in and how tragically they misshape our vision and view of life in the world. So, these words speak on their own.

It also reminds me of something that we hear so often about matters of faith, that we should keep our faith to ourselves. And there are moments like this when we see Christians rushing into brokenness, rushing into violence, rushing into loss, rushing into evil and trying to help others that we think I’m not sure we want Christians to keep their faith to themselves. And I’m not sure those that are calling for that — I know what they mean. What they mean is legislatively. They mean, “Stop telling us morally what to do, especially when it comes to sex.” But this same faith is what drove Officer Talley to run into this dangerous situation. And has motivated so many people, whether we’re talking about rescuers in natural disasters. I’m not saying that only Christians run into the brokenness, but that is a reputation that is historically verifiable for people of faith.

BROWN: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast. Thank you, John.

EICHER: Thank you, John.


In this Feb. 7, 2019 file photo, Bloomfield High School transgender athlete Terry Miller, second from left, wins the final of the 55-meter dash over transgender athlete Andraya Yearwood, far left, and other runners in the Connecticut girls Class S indoor track meet at Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Conn.  (AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb, File)

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