By / Feb 6

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. — With the Super Bowl this weekend, don’t expect many pastors to place a bet on Kansas City or San Francisco to win the game, but a few may have more than a rooting interest riding on the game. 

Despite its legalization across many states, U.S. Protestant pastors remain opposed to sports gambling, but they’re not doing much about it, according to a Lifeway Research study. Few pastors (13%) favor legalizing sports betting nationwide and most (55%) say the practice is morally wrong. 

“Anything can happen in sports, and many Americans want the same allure of an unexpected win in sports to translate into an unexpected financial windfall,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “Most pastors see moral hazards in sports betting and believe American society would be better off without it.” 

A majority of pastors (55%) believe betting on sports is morally wrong, including 33% who strongly agree. Around a third (35%) disagree, while 10% aren’t sure. 

While the Bible does not explicitly say, ‘thou shall not gamble,’ biblical principles regarding work and wealth indicate that gambling is unwise. The Bible teaches that sin has a ripple effect that harms not only the participant but those around him. This seems particularly true for addictive behaviors, and gambling is no different.

Miles Mullin, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission vice president and chief of staff

Read the full LifeWay newsroom article here.

By / Jan 11

COLUMBUS, Ohio (BP) – The Ohio House of Representatives Jan. 10th overrode Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of a bill protecting youth under age 18 from gender transitions and limiting women’s sports teams to biological females.

The Ohio Senate is expected to concur Jan. 24 in overriding DeWine’s veto, Senate President Matt Huffman told Columbus NBC affiliate WCMH, allowing the Saving Ohio Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act and the Save Women’s Sports Act to take effect. Both measures were included in House Bill 68, passed in December. DeWine vetoed it Dec. 29.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) welcomed the override.

The Ohio House of Representatives’ vote to override Gov. DeWine’s veto is a step in the right direction to protect the most vulnerable among us. This vital legislation will protect children from life-changing medical and surgical interventions and protect the integrity of women’s and girls’ sports.

ERLC Vice President and Chief of Staff Miles Mullin

“The ERLC has long maintained the position that children must not be pawns in the sexual revolution, and we will continue to advocate against harmful gender-transition practices,” Mullin said. “And while we affirm the rights of parents in decision-making regarding their children, those rights cannot extend to decisions that harm children’s bodies.”

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Oct 6

“Adult men are typically stronger, more powerful, and faster than women of similar age and training status,” states a new official pronouncement of the American College of Sports Medicine. For most of human history, such a claim would have been too obvious to be noteworthy. But the rise of transgender ideology has led many people to attempt to deny biological reality. However, when we look at the science of physiology, the difference in athletic ability between men and women becomes impossible to ignore. 

The ACSM says the primary goal of their consensus statement, which focuses mainly on adult male and female athletes, is to “contribute to the public dialogue by providing the latest scientific knowledge and subject matter expertise on the sex differences in athletic performance, while assisting with evidence-based solutions and ensure an equitable and fair solution for all.”

The primary finding in their statement is that biological sex is a determinant of athletic performance: adult males are faster, stronger, and more powerful than females. The fastest and most powerful males outperform the fastest and most powerful females. “For athletic events and sports relying on endurance, muscle strength, speed, and power, males typically outperform females by 10%–30% depending on the requirements of the event.” The largest sex difference in performance occurs in sports that rely on muscular power, such as weightlifting and jumping.

This biological differentiation in athletic ability occurs between childhood and adulthood. Before puberty, the sex difference in athletic performance between girls and boys is minimal. But exposure to high levels of naturally occurring testosterone in males at the onset of puberty (around 12 years of age) shifts the balance and is the primary determinant for the large sex difference in athletic performance during puberty and in adulthood. 

Why testosterone creates an athletic imbalance

A key reason for the difference is testosterone. Testosterone is a powerful, natural anabolic steroid that increases about 20–30-fold in males during puberty and is 15 times higher than in adult females. This gives boys and men a distinct advantage because the direct and indirect effects of testosterone in males (relative to females) during puberty has numerous effects on athletic performance. Some of the effects of testosterone during puberty include:

  • Having more muscle on the body. Muscles are what help you move, and having more muscle usually means you can move more easily or with more strength. 
  • Having less fat in comparison to other components like muscle or bone. Less body fat can mean more efficiency in movements and less weight to carry around.  
  • Higher hemoglobin concentration and mass. Hemoglobin is a substance in your blood that carries oxygen to your tissues. Having more of it means your muscles get the oxygen they need more efficiently, which is helpful during exercise. 
  • Larger ventricular mass and myocardial contractility. These terms refer to the heart. A larger ventricular mass means a bigger heart chamber to pump blood, and better myocardial contractility means the heart muscle can squeeze more forcefully to pump blood. Both help in circulating blood, and oxygen, throughout the body. 
  • Larger airways and lungs. Bigger airways and lungs allow for more air (and thus, oxygen) to be taken in and distributed to the body, which is essential during exercise.
  • Greater body height and longer limbs. Being taller with longer limbs can offer advantages in reach and stride, which might be beneficial in some sports or physical activities.

But what happens when testosterone is added to female bodies or suppressed in male bodies? According to the study, adding testosterone to female bodies results in: 

  • some increase in muscle mass and muscle fiber size, 
  • increased hemoglobin concentration and mass, 
  • improved strength, 
  • and better endurance performance. 

Suppressing testosterone in adult males can result in: 

  • decreases in muscle mass, 
  • and increased fat mass. 

However, for up to three years after suppressing testosterone, the loss of lean mass and strength is not as low as it is in adult females. Boys and men who undergo partial or complete male puberty followed by testosterone suppression also retain some advantage in power and endurance performance over biological females, at least up to two years after the suppression.

The report says that “muscle memory” may also play an important role in those who have been have previously been exposed to high levels of testosterone (e.g., male puberty) and who undergo suppression of testosterone but retain the ability to increase muscle tissue in response to resistance training.

The “science” of sex differences is on the side of biological reality

The ACSM points out that this is not a policy statement or recommendation about the inclusion of transgender athletes in cross-sex competition or how athletes should be categorized for recreational or competitive sports. Instead, it is meant to be an overview of the state of the science in the field. Yet those who claim we should “trust the science” will be all too eager to ignore such commonsensical findings since it contradicts transgender ideology. 

Nevertheless, such findings should strengthen our resolve to maintain separate categories for males and females as being essential to preserve the integrity and essence of women’s sports. Women’s sports have historically provided a platform for female athletes to showcase their skills and achievements, and allowing biological males to compete undermines this tradition.

Bans on transgender athletes in girls and women’s sports are necessary measures to protect the sanctity, fairness, and opportunities of women’s sports. Christians should uphold God-given, biological reality, protect women’s opportunities, and preserve the sanctity of women’s sports by supporting such bans. And we can do so knowing that “science” is on our side.

By / May 16

On April 6, the Department of Education (ED) released a proposed rule under Title IX anti-discrimination laws to “clarify” the participation of transgender students in school sports. This new rule establishes that federally-funded schools may violate Title IX if they categorically ban transgender students from participating on sports teams consistent with their claimed gender identity, but it also offers some vague and narrow circumstances where banning transgender athletes could be acceptable.

On April 15, the ERLC filed public comments in opposition to the change. ED is obligated to respond to each comment before finalizing the rule.

 What is Title IX?

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex-based discrimination in education, stating: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 

Title IX law is intended to provide equal opportunities for both men and women seeking to participate in educational institutions and extracurricular activities that receive federal funding.

How would this proposed rule change Title IX policies?

The proposed changes from ED would bar schools from implementing categorical bans on the participation of transgender students in sports inconsistent with their biological sex. The rule would force schools to implement policies unfair to athletes competing on teams consistent with their biological sex, placing female athletes at high risk of losing their personal privacy, competitive balance, and scholarship and award opportunities.

The stated intention of this proposed rule is to provide “clarity” for federally-funded schools, coaches, and parents on the participation of transgender students in grade school and high school sports. Under the proposed reinterpretation of Title IX, 

  • “schools would not be permitted to adopt or apply a one-size-fits-all policy that categorically bans transgender students from participating on teams consistent with their gender identity.” 
  • Any scholastic efforts to restrict participation based on gender identity must establish criteria “substantially related to the achievement of an important educational objective.” 
  • The criteria must also “minimize harms to students whose opportunity to participate on a male or female team consistent with their gender identity would be limited or denied.” 

Little attention is given to any harms that could be placed onto biological female athletes through less fair and safe competition.

Contrary to ED’s statement, this rule fails to provide clarity on this issue and punishes schools who disapprove of Title IX’s ever-expanding definition of gender identity. To satisfy the department’s new criteria, local school districts may need to disregard policies that require disclosure of gender identity, as well as policies that require transgender students to participate on a sex-specific team matched with their biological sex. 

Why is this problematic?

ED’s proposed change would have sweeping effects that would significantly undermine the original intent and purpose of Title IX. By refusing to account for biological, sex-dependent differences, this regulation would legally enshrine inequality in sports, undermining the very law meant to secure gender equality in the first place.

Not only would this regulation work directly against decades of successful efforts to ensure equal athletic opportunity for men and women, but it would also completely blur the distinctions between men and women and their corresponding team sports. It is clearly unfair and demeaning to female athletes for our nation’s policies to proceed as if biological males are the standard by which they must evaluate their athletic performance.

Additionally, the proposed regulation constructs arbitrary criteria that only considers potential harms to transgender students, wrongly excluding deserving female athletes from the equation. The doctrine of the image of God must compel our leaders to protect dignity, rights, and opportunities for all people, including female athletes. This is not an either-or situation: schools can secure privacy and athletic opportunity for female athletes while still seeking to serve and love transgender students. Sadly, this proposed regulation fails to empower schools to achieve fully inclusive solutions that are right for their local community. 

The new interpretation of rules relevant to transgender athletic participation would penalize academic institutions that choose to protect female athletes. Schools under the jurisdiction of Title IX would no longer be able to define sex as a person’s biological sex from birth, but instead would be forced to adopt gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of Title IX and its implementing regulations. Though the rule does provide some exceptions and circumstances where it could be deemed acceptable to ban transgender athletes, the exceptions are too vague and subjective to provide real guidance and protections to schools and administrators.

As we argued in our comments:

The exceptions articulated by the Department are as vague as they are hollow. The three factors enumerated are broad and highly subjective, open to vast interpretations from school to school. Yet, the Department’s subsequent commentary about the use of these factors renders the exception virtually useless. Any school or institution seeking to ensure that girls are physically protected as well as have equal access to fair athletic competition enshrined in Title IX, will undoubtedly face criticism and massive litigation costs for any exception they employ. It will be untenable for most schools to protect girls. Additionally, students themselves will be bounced around from team to team as school administrators, forced to comply with these untenable regulations and contend with impending lawsuits, do their best to navigate the subjective murkiness of this guidance.

How has the ERLC responded?

The ERLC has submitted public comments expressing these concerns about the proposed rule and urging ED to retract its policy. The ERLC will continue to monitor these changes and advocate for the recognition of God’s good design for biological sex and the flourishing of all our neighbors.

By / Jun 23

Fifty years ago, President Nixon signed into law Title IX Education Amendments of 1972, a landmark policy for women and girls. Title IX states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

This important policy was intended to provide equal opportunities for men and women seeking to participate in activities and educational institutions receiving funding from the U.S. government. One of the most notable ways Title IX has benefited thousands of women is their ability to equally participate in sports. Catherine Parks writes, “many young girls now have the hope of competing at a collegiate level with all the benefits Title IX provides. The ability to earn a scholarship and compete at this level can be life changing. Women are more likely to attend college and graduate when offered an athletic scholarship.”

Women’s sports and the transgender movement

The 50th anniversary of Title IX is worth celebrating for all that it has meant for women and girls and their ability to fully and fairly participate in sports. However, in recent years, equal athletic opportunities for biological females have been repeatedly compromised by the participation of transgender athletes in women’s sports.

In 2020, three star female track athletes lodged a high-profile lawsuit targeting their Connecticut conference’s policy allowing transgender athletes to compete in women’s sports. The defendants alleged that two biological males won 15 state high school championships over three years, stripping biological women of crucial advancement and scholarship opportunities. In 2021, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, but the athletes are appealing the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. 

Transgender atheletes are also challenging the integrity of women’s sports on the collegiate level. In March 2022, University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas won the NCAA 500-meter freestyle championship. Thomas, a biological male, competed on the men’s swimming team for two years before joining the women’s team after undergoing a year of hormonal therapies. Thomas struggled to break out while swimming against men, but the swimmer quickly dominated national competition after switching to compete against biological women. Controversy swirled around Thomas’ status on the women’s team, as multiple female swimmers protested and team parents raised concerns over lost opportunities and championships for their children.  FINA, the international swimming governing body, responded by banning male-to-female transgender swimmers from competition unless the transition occurred before the onset of puberty.

At least 13 states have banned biological males who identify as women from competing in women’s sports. States are beginning to recognize the irony of forcing female athletes to compete against biological males: these policies are explicit reversals of the very Title IX antidiscrimination measures meant to secure equal opportunities for women. Biological males enjoy a natural advantage when competing against women, and proposed redefinitions of Title IX protections discriminate against young women by expecting them to overcome those disadvantages.

Department of Education’s proposed changes

Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced proposed changes to Title IX regulations that would have sweeping effects on the original intent and purpose of Title IX. The department stated that it intends to prohibit discrimination “based on sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity.” In short, the department wants to expand the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI). This is significant because it would allow for biological men to participate in women’s sports, particularly at a collegiate level, and would penalize institutions that did not expand the definition of sex to include SOGI.

The department’s proposed Title IX regulations will be open for public comment for 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. The ERLC will submit public comments on this proposed rule.

Why does this matter to Christians

It is becoming increasingly clear that issues of gender identity and sexual orientation will continue to be debated in our culture. Given that, Christians are, and will continue to be, confronted with difficult situations in their schools and universities that revolve around transgender athletes. As these challenges arise, Christians need to know how to respond. We uphold the design of our Creator, who chose to endow men and women with equal value, yet distinct physical attributes. In this context, our intentional physical make-up as men and women, boys and girls has implications for the way we perform in athletic competition, and those differences should be acknowledged and valued.

The important protections that Title IX offers girls and women are in jeopardy if additional steps are taken to allow biological men to compete in female athletics. The blurred line in the definition of sex is going to lead to the deterioration of women’s sports all together. Christians need to be firmly grounded in what the Bible  teaches about biological sex and be ready to give an answer to the neighbors, family members, and larger culture around us. As we watch our daughters and sons train and compete, we should rejoice at the beauty of God’s design for creation and seek to teach our children and those that God has put in our path to disciple that every one of us is loved and purposely created to point to the One in whose image we were made. 

How the ERLC is involved

The ERLC is supports the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act. This act would clarify that it is a Title IX violation for schools that receive federal education funds to permit biological males to participate in female sports. We call on Congress to protect women and girls by ensuring they are given a fair opportunity to compete in athletics. 

The ERLC is also strongly opposed to the Equality Act. In addition to being detrimental to the issue of women’s sports participation, “the bill would curtail religious freedom protections, hinder the work of healthcare professionals and faith-based hospitals, undermine civil rights protections for women and girls, and ultimately steamroll the consciences of millions of Americans.”

We will always affirm the biological differences between male and female reflected in God’s creation and uphold the Southern Baptist Convention’s position on gender identity stated in its summary of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message, which says, “Man is the special creation of God, made in His own image. He created them male and female as the crowning work of His creation. The gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God’s creation.”

ERLC Interns Daniel Hostetter and Cooper Shull contributed to this article.

By / May 11

One of my favorite athletes of all time is Florence Griffith-Joyner (1959–1998). Affectionately known as FloJo, she still holds the women’s world records for both the 100-meter and 200-meter open events. What made Griffith-Joyner so endearing was her combination of God-given speed and irrepressible style. Other female runners pull their hair back in order not to have any additional drag from the air as they run. 

Not FloJo: She sprinted to the front of the pack with long hair blowing in wind created by her own tremendous speed. And her fingernails were even more famous than her hair, with Griffith-Joyner sporting long nails in bright, fun colors. She was so fast and her nails were so long, it was not hard to imagine that she might just take off and fly! On and off the track, she radiated grace. And yet, as the fastest woman in the world, this American legend would be slower than the fastest male high school athletes in the United States. 

Consider these comparisons from Missouri. Florence Griffith-Joyner burned the 100 meters in 10.49 in 1988, a world record now 34 years old. But the Missouri state boys high school 100 meter record is tied between Jon Vaughn (1988) and Maurice Mitchell (2007)—both running at a blazing 10.42.1Missouri State High School Activities Association, “Championship Site Record Book – 100 Meter Dash,” https://www.mshsaa.org/Activities/ChampionshipSiteRecordBook.aspx?activity=19&gender=1 In 1988, Griffith-Joyner also set the women’s world record in 200 meters at 21:34. And yet the fastest six boys in Missouri High School history beat our beloved FloJo’s record time.2Missouri State High School Activities Association, “Championship Site Record Book – 200 Meter Dash,” https://www.mshsaa.org/Activities/ChampionshipSiteRecordBook.aspx?activity=19&gender=1&recordtype=1302&view=all

The differences that can’t be changed 

Why are these young men faster than the women’s world record holder? Because God designed men and women differently, and when we go through puberty, males develop more muscle mass and larger bone structure.3One article says,  “In boys during puberty, sex hormones may have dramatic activating effects for promoting rapid accumulation of muscle mass and the acquisition of muscle strength.” Yang Xu, et al, “Relationships of Sex Hormones With Muscle Mass and Muscle Strength in Male Adolescents at Different Stages of Puberty,” Plos One 16.12 (December 2, 2021): 2. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0260521. Nieves, et al say, “Gender-related differences in bone width are more apparent after puberty.” See Jeri W. Nieves, et al, “Males Have Larger Skeletal Size and Bone Mass Than Females, Despite Comparable Body Size,” Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 20.3 (2005): 529 For example, a man’s leg is about 80% muscle, compared with about 60% muscle in a woman’s leg.4Laura Geggel, “Why Do Men Run Faster Than Women?,” Live Science, May 27, 2017, Why Do Men Run Faster Than Women? | Live Science This means males can run faster than females. 

In light of modern demands for biological males to be allowed to compete with females in the name of trans-inclusivity, it is crucial to keep in mind that biological males who identify as females will have an unfair advantage over biological females. This advantage will continue to accrue to biological males even after taking female hormones. Someone who is born a male will continue to have larger heart size, bigger bone structure, and larger lung capacity after transitioning.

A 2021 report in Sports Medicine said the advantages in muscle mass and strength conferred by male puberty is only minimally reduced when testosterone is suppressed as per current sporting guidelines for transgender athletes.5Emma N. Hilton and Tommy R. Lundberg, “Transgender Women in the Female Category of Sport: Perspectives on Testosterone Suppression and Performance Advantage,” Sports Medicine 51 (2021): 199 – 214. In 2019, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that after one year of taking female hormones, male-to-female transgenders did lose about 5% of their muscle volume, but they generally maintained their strength levels.6Anna Wiik, et al, “Muscle Strength, Size, and Composition Following 12 Months of Gender-affirming Treatment in Transgender Individuals” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 105.3 (March 2020): e805 – e813. 

The injustice toward women

Advocates in favor of allowing males to compete with females often make veiled and confused references to “justice” as a reason for their stance, but such arguments reflect not only a denial of basic differences between males and females but incoherent understandings of justice. The formal principle of justice states, “Treat like cases alike, and different cases differently.” Ronald Nash explained this concept and said, “Injustice always exists when similar people are treated differently or when dissimilars are treated alike.” And this is exactly what happens when biological males are granted leeway to identify as females in athletic competition: Dissimilar individuals—biological males and biological females—are being treated alike,7Nash, Life’s Ultimate Questions, 359. and in so doing one person’s subjective autonomy regarding gender identity is being used in an unjust way to give a competitive advantage. 

I hope there will be many generations of young women inspired by Florence Griffith-Joyner’s amazing accomplishments. I also hope young women catch a sense of FloJo’s joy for life, realizing that life is a race to be run with excellence; our time on Earth is too short to give anything less than our best and to rejoice in the fact God let us be alive. But our culture already places many challenges in front of girls. Hollywood objectifies young women as sexual objects. Vulgar music cheapens sex. A billion-dollar porn industry distorts the entire culture’s view of women. All these things contribute to a sense of anxiety and inadequacy in many girls, feelings which emerge just as they are trying to navigate the difficulties of puberty and adolescence. 

Athletic competition divided into the categories of males and females allows girls to compete on equal footing with other girls, creating a sense of accomplishment separated from the cacophony of confused voices vying for attention. We serve our young women best when we do not place another hurdle on the track by allowing biological males to compete as biological females. 

  • 1
    Missouri State High School Activities Association, “Championship Site Record Book – 100 Meter Dash,” https://www.mshsaa.org/Activities/ChampionshipSiteRecordBook.aspx?activity=19&gender=1
  • 2
    Missouri State High School Activities Association, “Championship Site Record Book – 200 Meter Dash,” https://www.mshsaa.org/Activities/ChampionshipSiteRecordBook.aspx?activity=19&gender=1&recordtype=1302&view=all
  • 3
    One article says,  “In boys during puberty, sex hormones may have dramatic activating effects for promoting rapid accumulation of muscle mass and the acquisition of muscle strength.” Yang Xu, et al, “Relationships of Sex Hormones With Muscle Mass and Muscle Strength in Male Adolescents at Different Stages of Puberty,” Plos One 16.12 (December 2, 2021): 2. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0260521. Nieves, et al say, “Gender-related differences in bone width are more apparent after puberty.” See Jeri W. Nieves, et al, “Males Have Larger Skeletal Size and Bone Mass Than Females, Despite Comparable Body Size,” Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 20.3 (2005): 529
  • 4
    Laura Geggel, “Why Do Men Run Faster Than Women?,” Live Science, May 27, 2017, Why Do Men Run Faster Than Women? | Live Science
  • 5
    Emma N. Hilton and Tommy R. Lundberg, “Transgender Women in the Female Category of Sport: Perspectives on Testosterone Suppression and Performance Advantage,” Sports Medicine 51 (2021): 199 – 214.
  • 6
    Anna Wiik, et al, “Muscle Strength, Size, and Composition Following 12 Months of Gender-affirming Treatment in Transgender Individuals” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 105.3 (March 2020): e805 – e813.
  • 7
    Nash, Life’s Ultimate Questions, 359.
By / Mar 21

I am an avid college basketball fan. During my college years at the University of Tennessee, our basketball program took major steps forward in being competitive each year, routinely making the NCAA tournament. I follow my team and interact with various sports accounts on social media, which has put me in the target audience for many marketers including most sports betting apps and other forms of online gambling. These companies routinely target younger to middle-aged men, especially those who show interest in sports. I can’t go an hour or two online without seeing multiple ads for sports gambling, and even more so during March Madness. And due to the power of algorithms and digital marketing, the more I research this subject (and even you simply reading this type of article) will increase the likelihood of seeing gambling ads across the internet and social media platforms.

In recent years, there has been an explosion of online gambling especially related to sports. Whether professional sports like football, soccer, and basketball or collegiate sports including the current NCAA basketball tournaments, many of us are inundated with countless advertisements about making a quick buck or even betting on our team to win it all. Most of these ads are tailored to our favorite teams, often using images from high-profile games with the allure of “instant bonuses,” free credits, or an easy win. This time of year, online gambling surges leave many in their wake. 

According to The New York Times, about 30 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico currently allow sports gambling either online or in person, which means that over 30% of the population is able to legally bet on March Madness or other sporting events, across sports. These deceptive schemes or forms of “entertainment” can ruin someone’s life quickly, particularly those who may be prone to addictions or destructive behavior. They can be devastating and predatory. But how did this explosion in online sports betting become so widespread, and what is the human toll? And how does the Church begin to navigate these complex ethical issues that are plaguing our communities?

The human toll of gambling

Gambling has become an epidemic around the world in recent decades. It is important to note that gambling is not a new phenomenon or simply related to sports, as this form of entertainment (and addiction) has long been a part of our culture in the U.S., ranging from the allure of Sin City to the lottery in many states across the nation. Due to the digital age, the means have become easier in recent years, and gambling addictions can be assumed as predominant throughout our communities. This is true for about 1-3% of our country’s population, which brings the total of those dealing with serious gambling addictions to over 10 million people. Gambling accounts for about $53 billion of revenue in the U.S. alone, with $900 million in sports-related gambling in 2019.

And it isn’t hard to see the devastating effects of gambling in our communities. Whether it’s a neighbor getting $5 on pump 2 and $10 worth of scratch-offs or intoxicated casino-goers racking up major tabs with the hopes of striking it big, the house always wins by design. It’s clear that gambling is an extremely attractive venture for many as it can bring in desired tax revenue for local governments and be a lucrative business venture. Though if the chances of winning were actually high enough for most to win, then gambling wouldn’t be such a profitable business model. Online gambling companies, especially those connected to sports, know they will draw a major profit as most business leaders will never willingly put themselves at great risk of massive financial loss even if the public suffers as a result of their business.

Sports gambling exploded after the 2018 Supreme Court decision to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which opened the door to online sports betting across 21 states. PASPA was a 1992 federal law signed by then President George H.W. Bush, which prohibited states from offering sports gambling, with very few exceptions. The act did not make sports gambling itself a federal crime, but instead allowed the “Attorney General, as well as professional and amateur sports organizations, to bring civil actions to enjoin violations.” While many states allowed casinos, racetracks, and other forms of gambling prior to this decision, this case brought by the State of New Jersey allowed for sports gambling to be a major fixture in these institutions including online or app-based sports gambling which have become especially prominent during playoffs, tournaments, and large sporting events.

Given the ubiquity of sports betting in our digital society, it is likely that you or someone you know well is gambling or is struggling with addictive behavior. In light of the addictive and predatory nature of gambling, how should the Church respond to this growing epidemic in light of the biblical ethic?

The Church and the common good

The Christian ethic reminds us of some core truths that apply in conversations about gambling and addiction. First and foremost, we are each called to live righteous and God-honoring lives, knowing that everything we have is from God himself (1 Cor 4:7). Among Christians, it can be tempting to simply give God “his portion” of our income and fail to see that all the rest is a gift from God, too. We are called to wisely steward these gifts as we seek to love God and love our neighbor (Mark 12:29-31). This all comes down to the perennial question of ethics: Just because we can do something, does that mean we should?

It is important to note here that God is the creator of the entire universe, and he also created each of us in his image whether or not we choose to fulfill our purpose as his image-bearers. It may be one thing to participate in a company tournament raffle or to have a friendly wager between friends, but online gambling and app-based sports betting is a completely different situation especially if one is flippant about their stewardship of God’s provisions. Often gambling is done where one sacrifices their necessities or provision with the hopes of winning big.

Another angle that is not often discussed in light of gambling are the social effects of our sin, greed, and pride. Like the man who gets $5 of gas and $10 of scratch-offs, the allure of gambling can be used to take advantage of certain segments of our neighbors and communities. As I mentioned above, gambling is a predatory practice — exploiting some for the benefit of others. An important question for all of us to ask is how does one’s participation in this type of industry, even if it is done without malicious motives, encourage or sustain these predatory practices throughout our society? Does your involvement prop up this business model that is known to exploit the weaknesses of others and dehumanize them in the process?

Similar to how payday lending is predatory with astronomically high interest rates and short loan periods, online gambling is designed to line the pockets of the company rather than to promote the common good rooted in the dignity of all people. Taking advantage of our fellow image-bearers, especially in terms of financial provisions and their economic future through highly addictive means like contemporary sports gambling apps, is morally incongruent with the biblical ethic as it is a form of stealing and being deluded by the love of money (Ex. 20:17; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Tim. 6:10). It does not live up to the standard which Christ gave us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Mark 12:31). Gambling also leads to countless other social ills, including the breakdown of families, other highly addictive behaviors, loss of homes and jobs, and extreme financial peril.

Gambling, including the meteoric rise of sports betting, often leads to encouraging vice in our society rather than virtuous and wise behaviors. It is important for the Church to remember that all policies, laws, and practices are inherently moral by nature as they encourage or discourage certain behaviors. As many in our communities are lured in by the delusions of quick cash, massive payouts, and a long list of ‘what-ifs’, the Church must be ready to care for and love those who are seeking to break these addictions. Far from being an isolated and simple issue, gambling has unfortunately become a mainstay in our society, especially in this digital age.

By / Feb 11

A record 31.4 million American adults plan to bet on Super Bowl LVI, a 35% increase from 2021, according to new research by the American Gaming Association. While half that number is casual bets among friends, 18.2 million will place traditional sports wagers online, at a retail sportsbook, or with a bookie. This is an increase of 78% from the 2021 Super Bowl.

For the past several years Americans have been increasingly exposed to predatory gambling, the practice of using gambling to prey on human weakness for profit. Unfortunately, rather than protect the vulnerable, state governments are colluding with the profiteers to exploit ​​their citizens. For-profit gambling, or commercial gambling, is illegal unless granted special legal exemption by the government — which many states are increasingly willing to provide. 

Until three years ago, Nevada was the only state in which a person could legally wager on the results of a game. But in 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that a federal ban on sports betting was unconstitutional. The vote in the case of Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association was 6-3, with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor dissenting. That decision opened the floodgates for legalized sports betting. 

Currently, 45 million Americans can legally wager in their home state. The states where sports betting is currently legal are Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming, and Washington D.C. North Carolina and New Mexico have limited sports betting via tribal casinos. Mississippi also allows online sports betting, but only on-site at licensed casinos. Maryland, Nebraska, and Ohio are likely to legalize sports betting by the end of 2022 or early 2023. 

Because of these changes in state law, gamblers across the U.S. can wager on various sports competitions at a sportsbook. Over the past few years, advertising for sportsbooks such as FanDuel, Caesars, and DraftKings has become ubiquitous in states that allow sports betting. The advertising is prominently displayed on subways, buses, and buildings and heard constantly on radio and television. According to research, 106 million American adults (41%) recall advertising related to gambling in the past year — an increase of 32 million people (12%) from 2020. 

The human cost of predatory gambling

States are reaping the benefits in the form of increased tax revenues. But the human cost is largely being ignored. According to experts, federal and state governments still devote few resources to tracking and treating people with gambling problems.

“It’s this ticking time bomb,” said Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling. “We have to take action now, but the problem is almost impossible to quantify.”

State governments continue to legalize predatory gambling despite decades of research that it is destructive to their communities. For instance, the National Gambling Impact Study estimated the lifetime divorce rates for problem and pathological gamblers were 39.5% and 53.5% respectively; the same rate for non-gamblers was 18.2%. And a study that looked at the spread of casino gambling in 300 Metropolitan Statistical Areas found that the presence of a casino reduces voluntarism, civic participation, family stability, and other forms of social capital within 15 miles of a community where it is located.

According to a study by the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions, the poorer the neighborhood, the higher the risk for problem gambling. In areas with the highest “neighborhood disadvantage” — determined by census factors such as the percentage of people who were unemployed, received public assistance, and/or live in poverty — more than 11% were problem gamblers, compared to just 5% in neighborhoods ranking in the top fifth of economic advantage.

Numerous studies demonstrate disparities in health and health services including problem and pathological gambling among ethnic and racial minority groups. Overall, gambling activities appear to be frequent among ethnic and minority populations with rates ranging between 12.9 and 87%. The prevalence of gambling disorders have been reported as low as 0.3% in Hispanics and as high as 58% in South East Asian refugees. 

One survey ​​found that Black Americans spend nearly twice as much on lottery tickets as do white or Hispanic respondents. The average reported expenditure among Blacks was $200 per year, $476 among those who played the lottery the previous year. Black men have the highest average expenditures. Poor Americans also spend a larger percentage of their wealth on lottery tickets than other households, leading to a reduction in spending on other activities. During the time 21 states implemented a state lottery, household expenditures declined 2.4% for expenses not related to gambling. The implication is that households spent that money on lottery tickets rather than on other goods and services.

Without the legal, administrative, regulatory, and promotional advantages provided by state governments, predatory gambling would not be spreading so quickly into mainstream American life as they are today, and would likely still exist only on the fringes of the society.

How Christians can respond

Christians should care about the effects of predatory gambling on their neighbors. Governments are entrusted with seeking the welfare of their citizens, not exploiting their weaknesses. There are several things you can do to help stop the spread of this type of gambling: 

  • Ask state legislators to oppose any expansion of gambling and/or to roll back current laws authorizing legal gaming. Find the contact information for your state legislators and call or write them directly.
  • Persuade local governments to enact regulations that prevent legalized gambling companies from targeting vulnerable groups, such as minorities, the elderly, and the poor. Be on the lookout for gambling related initiatives, and show up to meetings to express your opposition.
  • Promote awareness within their churches and communities about the harms of predatory gambling. ERLC has produced a free, downloadable bulletin insert for use by your church on Anti-Gambling Sunday. 
By / Jul 23

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss John Leland, religious freedom, Jeff Bezos the astronaut, COVID-19 surging once again, the start of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the six new sports debuting in Tokyo, the Milwaukee Bucks winning the NBA championship, and USA stove pipe hats. Lindsay gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including Nathan Finn with “3 reasons Baptists should look to John Leland: Religious liberty, evangelism, and biblical justice,” Ben Harbaugh with “Explainer: Biden administration to nominate Ambassador for International Freedom,” and Policy Staff with “Explainer: Federal court strikes down discrimination against religious student groups on college campus.”

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. The Blue Origin suborbital space flight
  2. Covid hits the Capitol amid visit from infected Texas lawmakers
  3. Texas Democrats to break quorum in special session over voting rights
  4. new infections surge to highest point in 5 months
  5. Delta variant now accounts for about 58% of COVID-19 cases in US, CDC says
  6. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics
  7. Six new sports makes Tokyo 2020 the biggest Olympics ever
  8. 2020 Olympics could still be cancelled
  9. U.S. soccer suffers stunning defeat to Sweden in Olympics opener
  10. The Milwaukee Bucks are NBA champions for the first time in 50 years as Antetokounmpo scores 50 points
  11. USA stove pipe hats

Lunchroom

Connect with us on Twitter

Sponsors

  • Love your church: This engaging book by Tony Merida explores what church is, why it’s exciting to be a part of it, and why it’s worthy of our love and commitment. | Find out more about this book at thegoodbook.com
By / Feb 26

As a husband, pastor, and the father of eight children, five of whom are daughters, there are many reasons I am deeply troubled by H.R. 5, legislation ironically named the Equality Act. In this article, I want to focus on my concerns as a girl dad who loves sports.  

As a girl dad, I am concerned about the Equality Act because it will undermine female equality by negating the biological reality of sex. Erasing biological sex as a legal category will negatively affect all of us, but it will disproportionately harm women.

Women and Title IX

Under H.R. 5, vital laws protecting women from discrimination on the basis of “sex” would be upended. A person’s sex would no longer be a matter of biology, but of one’s internal sense of “gender identity.” Title IX is a portion of the United States Education Amendments of 1972, designed to ensure equal opportunities in programs and activities for biological females. The amendment is probably best known for its impact on high school and college athletics. Title IX reads,

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Of course, when Title IX was adopted, “sex” merely indicated whether a person was biologically male or female. If the legal definition of “sex” is expanded to include non-verifiable gender identities, which H.R. would do, then what is the purpose of Title IX? How can you have an anti-discrimination law in place to protect women if there is no objective way to determine who is male and female? Any attempt to enforce such regulations would be nonsensical.

Impossible standards

In athletics, a refusal to account for biological, sex-dependent differences will legally enshrine inequality in sports. In addition to being unfair, it is insulting and demeaning to females when we proceed as if biological males are the standard by which they ought to evaluate themselves. Acknowledging biological differences in athletic competition is as necessary as acknowledging differences in age.

This is not hyperbole. 

Female athletes nationwide are already experiencing the unjust effects of our cultural gender chaos. In Texas, a 17-year-old female student transitioning to male and undergoing testosterone treatments won the girl’s state championship in wrestling. Performance-enhancing drugs are banned in most sports competitions but not if allowing them accommodates the student to “transition.” In Connecticut, biological males competing as females combined to win 15 girls state outdoor or indoor championship races. And how should we respond if a male who self-identifies as a female seriously injures a female while wrestling? It is not inconceivable that such issues portend the end of public school athletics.

Even tennis champion, long-time gay rights activist, and open lesbian Martina Navratilova responded with shock and outrage when she heard about biological transgender males competing against females. She penned a February 2019 article titled, “The rules on trans athletes reward cheats and punish the innocent.”

Navratilova asserted, “It’s insane and it’s cheating. I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her. It would not be fair.” She continued, “To put the argument at its most basic: a man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organization is concerned, win everything in sight and perhaps earn a small fortune, and then reverse his decision and go back to making babies if he so desires.” Of course, she was pilloried for her common sense comments and walked them back a bit.

Level playing field

My oldest daughter has enough talent as a tennis player, competing against other girls, to earn an athletic college scholarship to an excellent school. Would that be the case if she had to compete against biological males? No. Not even close. 

Let’s be honest; legislation like the Equality Act is not about protecting people who have been unfairly excluded from participation in sports. It is about politicizing everything in our culture, including sports, in service of the sexual revolution. 

I have no plans to turn my back on the reality of biological science. Nor to accept the new sexual orthodoxy. Still, I am gutted when I think about the implications of this legislative assault on my five daughters. There are far worse ramifications of H.R. 5 than the end of female sports, but as a dad who fiercely loves his daughters and has spent a lifetime enjoying sports, I grieve the thought of that loss in particular. 

The truth is found on the opening page of Scripture. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). I cannot wait until the weather warms, to watch my daughters compete against other girls on a tennis court. The beauty of competition taking place on a level playing field brings me great joy. I plan to enjoy it as long as I can.