Children Should Not Be Pawns for Cultural Experimentation

The danger of transgenderism for minors

F. Brent Leatherwood

Across the national landscape, children are being forced into vulnerable positions not of their choosing. This is especially so as the fallout from the sexual revolution continues to course through our society.

Let me state unequivocally at the outset: Children should not be proxies for any agenda, but especially one that attempts to advance harmful transgender ideology. Children should be protected from such madness. That should go without saying. But in a culture as confused as ours, it needs to be said now more than ever. 

After shocking revelations regarding experimental procedures taking place at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s transgender clinic, gender-transition surgeries for minors were discontinued in 2020. The clinic made the decision as it faced backlash due to accusations that the leadership were flouting billing procedures to provide so-called “gender-affirming care” and violating insurance practices. 

In the face of these accusations, as well as mounting evidence of the harm to children that such surgeries and treatments provide, the Tennessee Legislature banned all “transgender-affirming” care in 2023. This followed a 2022 ban on hormone therapy for prepubescent children. A number of states across the country have passed similar bans, including places like Iowa and Georgia.

Transgender Medicine for Minors Restricted and Banned

In fact, 19 states now have restrictions or bans on gender transition procedures. Sixteen of the states added those restrictions in 2023. Responding to their constituents, legislatures across the country are waking up to the irreversible harm that these medical procedures pose to children. 

Even as officials act, across the country, more minors are identifying as transgender. As one study found:

The last statistic demonstrates that the increase in minors identifying as transgender is not evenly dispersed across the population. This suggests that social factors play a significant role. The different rates among varying geographical communities should cause us to pause and ask whether this is, as some people claim, merely growing awareness or if there is a social contagion factor at work that encourages some individuals to impress decisions upon children that have lifelong effects.

The U.S. is now an outlier on the international stage when it comes to transgender procedures. England’s National Health Service has recently limited the use of puberty-blocking drugs to children in clinical trials. This decision comes after a review found that such drugs did not substantively change the psychological scores of children. Children scored the same with regards to depression or anxiety after taking the drugs. As a result, England joined Finland and Sweden in limiting access to gender transition treatments. 

The Danish Medical Association has been quietly restricting gender-transition procedures in recent years, recognizing that the best treatment for young people is often therapy rather than surgery or hormones. Additionally, Norwegian and French medical bodies have urged caution in prescribing medical interventions for minors related to gender dysphoria. 

Unfortunately, the American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics both continue to urge these harmful medical procedures despite their dubious outcomes. In America, ideology has triumphed over scientific evidence and sound medical practice.

Protecting Children. Speaking Truth.

It should be plain for all to see that the surgeries, cross-sex hormonal procedures, and puberty-blocking drugs that are offered as “gender-affirming” care are a direct contradiction to the principles of medicine. At a basic level, medicine is about restoring wholeness to the body. These surgeries and procedures violate the medical oath to “do no harm.” Instead, they mutilate the body and create, in some cases, irreversible damage. 

Today, an increasing number of young adults are going through the process of “detransitioning,” demonstrating that the promises medical and psychiatric professionals made to them—that transitioning would alleviate their distress—were hollow. Yet, for those who have had surgical intervention, what was lost is impossible to restore. Once removed, body parts are gone forever.

These brave young adults are now bearing the weight of choices made when they were not old enough to truly understand the ramifications of their decisions. Where adults and medical professionals should have protected them from the dangers of a culture awash in sexual confusion, they were instead subjected to harmful, experimental procedures. More so, all who questioned the wisdom of such actions were told they were contributing to the rising rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide among transgender teens, and opposition to these intervention was mere bigotry.

And all the while, children and minors have suffered.

Christians should oppose all procedures that attempt to “affirm” a person’s perceived gender identity by destroying the male-female binary established by God. As is clear from Scripture and biology, our bodies are created as male and female. Sexual differentiation is part of God’s good design for us. We do not need to overcome our bodies or perform surgeries to “affirm” our gender, because our gender is established by the bodies that God has given us.

However, this sensible approach to medicine and sex is viewed as radical in a confused culture that labels women as “birthing people” and discusses how men can use tampons. Christians should—while opposing all gender-affirming procedures—make special attempts to hold back the tide of confusion washing over children.

 Laws which protect children from transgender treatments like irreversible hormones and surgical interventions should be passed in every state. Medical boards should look at the evidence, and in light of the clear and present dangers, provide new guidelines that prohibit these procedures for minors too young to understand the life-altering effects of such choices.

And doctors and medical professionals who push children toward harmful procedures should be held accountable.

Our society desperately needs us to hold fast to God’s good design for our bodies (Gen. 1:27) and abhor the lies that tell us otherwise (Rom. 12:9). To do so communicates truth in love and ensures the sexual revolution stops victimizing the vulnerable.

Brent Leatherwood was elected as president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in 2022, after a year of leading the organization as acting president. Previously, he served as chief of staff at the ERLC, as well as the entity’s director of strategic partnerships. He brings an expertise in public policy to his work, having been the executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party, the director of communications and policy strategy in the Tennessee General Assembly, and working for several years on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Brent is a dedicated member of his church, where he has served as a deacon since 2014. Brent is married to Meredith, and together they have three children.

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