Religious Right, Catholic Church continue fight against trans-inclusive athletics policy

Basilica of St. Mary via Wikipedia
Basilica of St. Mary via Wikipedia

The political arm of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as well as the Minnesota Family Council and the Minnesota Child Protection League, have ramped up efforts to oppose a policy aimed at increasing inclusion for transgender high school students.

The policy, currently being drafted by the Minnesota State High School League, would create a framework for schools that have transgender students participating in high school sports and other extra-curricular activities. Conservative Christian groups oppose the policy which they view as an extension of LGBT rights, and because they don’t believe people can be transgender.

That’s a point the Minnesota Catholic Conference sought to make in an email alert to Catholics last week.

“The Policy will potentially cause more harm to the very students it purports to help because it enables a false understanding of gender that does not promote physical or psychological well-being,” the group wrote.

The MNCC had previously sent a letter to the MSHSL claiming that including transgender students in high school athletics would be a danger to other students, and has launched a petition opposing the policy.

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The Minnesota Family Council has also been rallying its supporters by claiming that being transgender is contrary to “God’s design.”

“When the truth of God’s design for us is being distorted in such a visible way, in a way that directly harms all our children, we can think of no better time for the Body of Christ to show her strength, united in one voice, opposing this distortion,” a Nov. 18 email stated.

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The group sent out an email written by Pastor Jeff Evans of Grace Church in Eden Prairie on Nov. 21. He complained that boys might be allowed to be on the swim team with girls.

“In case you haven’t heard, the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) is deliberating on December 4th whether to allow “transgender” students the right to participate in athletic competitions according to their gender preference. Or, to put it more directly, boys may be allowed to participate on the girls’ swimming team in every respect, from the pool to the locker room.”

Evans also asserted that being transgender is against “God’s design.”

“Why should this interrupt your schedule? Well, I hope it ultimately concerns all of the Body of Christ when the goodness and truth of God’s design for us are so blatantly exchanged for a lie.”

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“The LGBTQ community is working hard to pass this policy, which is unfair, unsafe, and discriminatory against girls,” the Minnesota Family Council wrote in a Nov. 20 email to supporters.

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The Minnesota Child Protection League, which has been the driving force behind the opposition to the policy, sent out a series of email alerts last week.

“We gave Athletic Directors information about the serious concern of many experts that treating all sexual leanings in children as “normal” can be harmful, since studies indicate that 70%-80% of children with transgender feelings spontaneously lose those feelings by the time they are adults.”

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Contrary to MNCPL’s claim, only one study indicated “that 70%-80% of children with transgender feelings spontaneously lose those feelings by the time they are adults” — not multiple studies as MNCPL’s language suggests. MNCPL’s email takes language that comes from Dr. Paul McHugh, a highly-credentialed psychiatrist who used to work at Johns Hopkins University. He’s also a devout Catholic who spins research to malign LGBT rights, according to GLAAD. He’s become an anti-transgender activist in recent years.

His data points come from research done in 2000 by the Portman clinic in London which specialized in working with transgender youth and adults. It was a survey of 124 youth between 1989 and 2000. A similar study from the Netherlands found the opposite results.

The Minnesota State High School League has also spoken out about its proposed policy. In the October newsletter of the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals, Roger Aronson who served as a legal counsel for the MSHSL wrote:

When all is said and done, few local rules or practices will be affected by the Leagues new policy. Schools can still set rules for participation on teams. For example, a school can require that athletes maintain a particular GPA or meet attendance requirements. A private school could require a student go to church as a requirement for being on one of its teams. However, a school cannot set rules for the teams that they are going to play against. It’s that simple. The League isn’t adopting rules about who showers where or what bathrooms people will use. These only become issues when people make them issues. By and large, schools have dealt with such issues on a case-by-case basis with positive results. That will continue.

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Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.


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