Fighting a phony war: The NCAA, the ACC, and North Carolina

September 16, 2016

North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” is, once again, making headlines. News broke this week that the NCAA would penalize the state of North Carolina by relocating seven of its championship events to other states for the 2016-2017 academic year. In the wake of this decision, the ACC also announced that it “will relocate all neutral site championships” during the same period. At the center of this controversy is House Bill 2, legislation passed by the North Carolina General Assembly which requires citizens to use public restrooms and changing facilities that correspond to their biological sex.

North Carolina has faced considerable outrage and backlash since HB2 was passed in late March. Branded by the Human Rights Campaign as “extraordinarily harsh” and “anti-LGBT,” the bill has also resulted in protests and boycotts of the state by artists, businesses and cities across the United States. Over the summer, under the direction of commissioner Adam Silver, the NBA announced it would pull the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte. The controversy surrounding HB2 has truly created a public relations nightmare. The fallout has taken a significant economic toll on the state, and the scenario is only further compounded by these decisions from the NCAA and ACC.   

But despite the outrage and indignation, supporters of HB2, including Governor Pat McCrory and lawmakers who crafted the legislation, are holding their ground. And they should be applauded for doing so.

The General Assembly passed HB2 in a special session which was convened for the purpose of prohibiting a critically flawed local ordinance from taking effect. In the weeks prior to the passage of HB2, the city council in Charlotte, NC adopted an ordinance that would have needlessly and intentionally exposed both residents and visitors of the city to considerable privacy and safety concerns. Though the ordinance was purportedly taken up by the city council in an effort to expand protections for LGBT persons, in actuality, it took the drastic step of eliminating the fundamental right to privacy that one would expect when entering a restroom or locker room.

The truth is that North Carolina is being ridiculed for taking a stand against the reckless and aggressive actions of a powerful LGBT lobby. The progressive and leftist groups fueling this outrage are seeking to monetize this controversy in order to win an election. Charlotte adopted an ordinance that would have allowed any person to enter any public bathroom or changing facility for any reason; no questions asked. That is a pathetic excuse for public policy. The ACC and the NCAA are but the latest pawns to step forward to fight in service to a phony cause. There is no shame in standing up for women and children; and further, there is no shame for holding fast to the truth that men and women are biologically distinct.

The acrimony notwithstanding, HB2 was written to ensure that vulnerable persons—like women and children—would not become easy targets for predators. It is common sense legislation intended to accomplish the first role of government, securing the rights of its citizens. To be very clear: recognizing that the Charlotte ordinance exposed women and children to the threat of predators is in no way the same as implying that transgender persons present such a threat. HB2 upholds a commonsense measure that makes privacy concerns dependent on biological sex, and not the elusive category “gender identity.” HB2 was enacted to close a dangerous loophole in an ordinance that was tragically inadequate. Moreover, the protest seems problematic since HB2 applies only to government buildings. This means that private businesses are free to decide their own privacy policies.

But the NCAA and the ACC have other concerns. In the midst of a cultural revolution, these organizations cannot appear to be standing on the sidelines. So instead they have thoughtlessly attempted to coerce North Carolina and its lawmakers to repeal a law based on the very same principle by which they themselves are organized. Namely, that men and women are different. While North Carolina is maligned for being bigoted and backward, it is impossible to miss the fact that neither the NCAA, nor the ACC, have abandoned the practice of dividing athletic competitions according to gender. But beyond the unbelievable hypocrisy, there is good reason not to do so.

Men and women are different; to recognize that insults no one and is not “anti” anything. And yes, we now live in a world where many individuals reject or defy the traditional, binary distinctions when it comes to gender. There is no doubt that transgenderism presents new questions about things like restrooms and public accommodations. But we should seek out thoughtful answers to these questions, instead of rushing to pass bad legislation in the name of social progress. And more than that, otherwise respectable organizations should refrain from leveraging their resources to engage on issues of which they are clearly ill-informed.

The future of this controversy remains uncertain. Regardless of the outcome, it is most regrettable that the NCAA and the ACC have chosen to take these punitive measures against the state of North Carolina. HB2 is good legislation that protects the vulnerable. But this debate isn’t about policy, it is about progress. And that is the problem.

Josh Wester

Joshua B. Wester is the lead pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24