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 / Aug 25

In recent years, there has been a growing debate surrounding the participation of transgender athletes in girls’ and women’s sports. After a wave of initial support for making such accommodations, the tide is turning. A Gallup poll finds that a larger majority of Americans now (69%) than in 2021 (62%) say transgender athletes should only be allowed to compete on sports teams that conform with their birth gender. Likewise, fewer endorse transgender athletes being able to play on teams that match their current gender identity—26%, down from 34%.

During this same time period, an increasing number of sports associations and states have recognized that bans on transgender athletes are necessary to protect the integrity and fairness of women’s sports. Here is what you should know about the issue.

What are bans on transgender athletes in sports?

Bans on transgender athletes in sports refer to policies that prevent people who identify as transgender from participating in sports that are consistent with their gender identity. The bans are most commonly applied to biological males who identify as transgender (transgender women). Few biological women who identify as transgender (transgender men) have sought access to competitions against male athletes. 

Why are such bans on transgender athletes necessary?

There are four primary reasons such bans are needed. 

To uphold biological reality.

God created male and female as distinct and complementary sexes. Biological differences between males and females are to be honored and cherished rather than used to gain an unfair advantage. By upholding biological reality, we can ensure that women’s sports remain a space for female athletes to compete on equal footing.

To ensure fair competition.

A key reason why such bans are needed is because biological differences between males and females can provide an unfair advantage in certain sports. Male puberty can result in physiological advantages such as increased muscle mass, bone density, and lung capacity, which can impact athletic performance. By allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports, it is argued that the level playing field for women is compromised. Maureen Collins, writing for Alliance Defending Freedom, has highlighted about a dozen examples of how women have been disadvantaged by competing against men.

To protect women’s opportunities.

Girls and women should have equal opportunities to excel in sports without facing unfair competition. Title IX, a federal law in the United States, was designed to ensure equal athletic opportunities for women. Allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports limits the opportunities available to women, as scholarships, records, and other achievements may be dominated by transgender athletes.

To preserve the integrity of women’s sports.

Maintaining separate categories for males and females is 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 transgender women 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 biological reality, protect women’s opportunities, and preserve the sanctity of women’s sports by supporting such bans.  

Where are such bans on transgender athletes currently in place?

As of August 2023, 23 states in the United States have enacted laws to ban transgender athletes from participating in sports aligned with their gender identity

These bans apply to both K-12 and collegiate level sports teams. The states with bans on transgender athlete participation in college sports include:

Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

The Supreme Court has declined to intervene in enforcing bans on transgender athletes in West Virginia, affirming the constitutionality of such restrictions.

In April, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation that would bar transgender women and girls from participating in athletic programs designated for women. The bill has no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate or being signed into law by President Biden. 

However, Biden’s Department of Education proposed a rule change that—while not allowing a blanket ban—would give universities and K-12 schools the discretion to limit the participation of transgender students if they conclude that including transgender athletes could undermine competitive fairness or potentially lead to sports-related injuries.

Which sports organizations ban biological males from competing against girls and women?

In 2022, the Union Cycliste Internationale, the governing body for cycling, announced a testosterone limit of 2.5 nmol/L for biologically male cyclists who want to compete with women.

Around that same time, FINA, the governing body for swimming, barred biological males from competing in women’s events.

World Rugby also has a complete ban on biological males competing in international women’s rugby “because of the size, force- and power-producing advantages conferred by testosterone during puberty and adolescence, and the resultant player welfare risks this creates.”

Earlier this year, World Athletics (WA), the governing body for track and field and other running competitions, implemented a policy that biological males who went through male puberty can no longer compete in women’s events at international competitions. WA also ruled that to compete as a woman, athletes with differences of sexual development (DSD), who have congenital conditions that cause atypical sex development, must have a testosterone level below 2.5 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) for at least 24 months before an international competition.

By / May 19

Recently, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) proposed a rule change concerning education programs and school activities that receive federal financial assistance.

On April 6, the ED released a proposed rule under Title IX anti-discrimination laws to “clarify” the participation of transgender students in school sports. The proposed rule focuses on sex-related eligibility criteria for male and female athletic teams, specifically advocating for the recognition of gender identity rather than biological sex in determining team eligibility.

ERLC has joined several organizations and scholars in voicing opposition to the proposed rule change, arguing that it undermines the original intent of Title IX, a federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 states: “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.” 

The intention of Title IX was to provide equal opportunities for both men and women seeking to participate in educational institutions and extracurricular activities that receive federal funding.

The law has been instrumental in advancing athletic opportunities for girls and women. As  Hannah Daniel, ERLC’s policy manager, said, “Since the passage of Title IX over 50 years ago, women and girls have been afforded new opportunities for advancement in education and athletics.”

However, 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.

The ERLC’s letter

In response to the rule change, ERLC President Brent Leatherwood submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Education expressing concerns about the proposed rule. Leatherwood argues that the rule violates the original intent of Title IX, which was enacted to provide equal opportunities for women and girls. ERLC believes that the proposed rule, which would require schools and universities to adopt gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of athletic competition, will undermine the purpose of Title IX. This change will also force women to compete against and share bathroom and changing facilities with biological males.

In the letter, Leatherwood raises concerns the ERLC has about the proposed rule’s impact on the biblical truth of binary sexes and biological realities. He argues that the rule would expand beyond these truths and conflate “sex” with “gender,” a shift that hinders the good and flourishing of our neighbors and discounts the human dignity of their fellow citizens. Leatherwood notes,

A refusal to account for biological, sex-dependent differences will legally enshrine inequality in sports by changing the very law that sought to achieve equality in the first place. If the proposed change is accepted, the law created to protect women from discrimination and provide them equality would discriminate against them and make them more unequal than ever before, as they would now be forced to compete and share facilities with biological males, who have distinct physical differences than females.

ERLC is urging the ED to retract the proposed rule so that the original intent of Title IX—to protect women and girls in athletic endeavors—may be realized. The ED is obligated by federal law to respond to each comment before finalizing the rule.

The proposed rule change has sparked a significant concern about the Biden administration’s efforts to undermine the original intent of Title IX. As the discussion continues, it will be crucial for Christians to pray that such efforts will be thwarted and to lobby ​​the federal government to consider the potential effects on all students and the future of athletics in educational institutions.

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 / Feb 6

Everywhere we look, it seems that many of our long-held freedoms are being challenged. Whether it’s a preborn child’s right to life, an employee’s right to receive religious accommodations at work, or the right of everyone to exercise free speech, new lawsuits are filed daily that threaten to chip away, or eliminate altogether, a subset of American freedoms. 

In March 2021, another such lawsuit was filed, threatening to jeopardize the rights of religious schools to operate according to their deeply held beliefs. 

In Hunter v. U.S. Department of Education, the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP), filed a class action lawsuit seeking “to nullify the religious exemption to Title IX that,” according to the plaintiffs, “allows widespread discrimination against LGBTQI students at faith-based colleges and universities.” 

After almost two years, the district court recently dismissed the case.

What was the case about?

On March 30, 2021, REAP filed a class-action lawsuit “representing 33 LGBTQ students and alumni from religious colleges demanding that the U.S. Department of Education stop granting religious exemptions to taxpayer-funded religious colleges and universities that,” in their words, “discriminate against and abuse their LGBTQ students.” Virtual public hearings began in early June 2021.

Kristen Waggoner of Alliance Defending Freedom argued that at its core this lawsuit was an effort by activists “to strip all students at private religious colleges of federal financial aid” and “prevent any student from using tuition grants, student loans, and any other federal financial assistance at schools that operate according to biblical views about human sexuality.” 

Likewise, the lawsuit—were it to be decided in the plaintiffs’ favor—would force religious schools “to either abandon their beliefs or lose the many students who rely on federal financial assistance.” It was an obvious attempt by the Religious Exemption Accountability Project to roll back some of our country’s longstanding legal protections for people of faith and religious institutions.

Responding to REAP’s lawsuit, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) requested that the court “allow three Christian colleges—representative of more than 1,000 others across the country—to intervene in the lawsuit and defend Title IX,” a U.S. Department of Education statute targeted by the lawsuit. The motion was granted in October 2021, and ADF proceeded to represent these three institutions (Corban University, William Jessup University, and Phoenix Seminary).

How was the case decided?

On Jan. 12, the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon ruled to dismiss Hunter v. U.S. Department of Education outright and continue to allow students to receive financial aid at schools that share their religious beliefs.” 

Responding to the plaintiffs’ claims of discrimination and abuse, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken stated that “Plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that the regulatory changes have led or contributed to the harm they have experienced.” 

Though the opinion affirmed that Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, it affirmed the legality of the religious exemption and rejected arguments that the schools’ actions were in violation of the First Amendment Establishment Clause. On all points, the plaintiffs’ arguments were deemed insufficient and implausible, leading to the court’s dismissal of the case. 

In response to the multitude of angles REAP took to accomplish its goal of ending the so-called “abuses perpetrated under the religious exemption to Title IX,” the court delivered a definitive statement of support for religious liberty by dismissing this case. 

While Hunter v. U.S. Department of Education was dismissed by the U.S. District Court, it will likely be appealed in the coming days. 

What’s the ERLC’s response?

The ERLC applauds the court’s decision to dismiss this case. As others have argued, the lawsuit which precipitated the Hunter court case was an unfounded attempt to eliminate an essential freedom afforded to religious educational institutions and their students. No student of any faith should be deprived of their right “to attend a school that shares their beliefs” and no educational institution should be stripped of its freedom to “live out their deeply and sincerely held convictions.”

Religious liberty is a core conviction and key distinctive of the ERLC and the Southern Baptist Convention, and we heartily agree with the court’s dismissal. The ERLC will be tracking this case as it moves forward closely, and should the case be appealed, the ERLC will continue to stand firmly for the constitutional right of religious freedom. 

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.

Title IX and its implementing regulations contain several exemptions and exceptions from its coverage,” including substantial religious exemptions, which is what REAP’s lawsuit sought to target. The ERLC has long been involved in protecting these vital religious exemptions, even as Title IX has been expanded and adapted.

By / Sep 19

On July 12, the Department of Education (DOE) issued a proposed rule under Title IX discrimination laws that would expand the definition of “sex” to include sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Following the announcement, the DOE allowed 60 days for organizations and individuals to comment with concerns. As that comment period closed Monday, the DOE is obligated to respond to each of these comments before putting forward a finalized 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 laws? 

This proposed rule would reinterpret Title IX’s prohibition against sex-based discrimination to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy. Section 106.10 of Title IX will “articulate the Department’s understanding that sex discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity.” Under this new rule, preventing individuals from participating in school programs consistent with their self-identified “gender identity” would constitute discrimination. In order to receive federal funding, religious schools and organizations may be compelled to allow transgender students to live in opposite sex dorms, use restrooms reserved for the opposite sex, or participate on sports teams with their chosen gender identity. 

This proposed rule is another attempt by the executive branch to extend the bureaucratic application of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County (2020). In Bostock, the court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gay and transgender employees against unlawful discriminiation — logic that various executive agencies including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Agriculture, and now the DOE have applied to Title IX.

 The DOE’s proposed rule explicitly relies on Bostock’s reasoning because of similarities in the text of Title VII and Title IX and other comparable applications by federal courts. But a federal judge temporarily blocked similar guidance previously issued by the DOE, aiming his sights at the “improper expansion” of Bostock‘s reasoning to Title IX. This new rule, then, is likely vulnerable to similar litigation that could severely limit its applicability and effectiveness.

Why is the rule problematic?

The DOE’s proposed change would have sweeping effects that would significantly undermine the original intent and purpose of Title IX. The new language that expands the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) would penalize institutions that did not expand the definition of sex to include SOGI. Organizations and 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.

In athletics, a refusal to account for biological, sex-dependent differences will legally enshrine inequality in sports by changing the very law that sought to achieve the equality in the first place. In addition to being unfair, it is insulting and demeaning to females for our nation’s policies to proceed as if biological males are the standard by which they ought to evaluate themselves. If the proposed change is accepted, the law created to protect them from discrimination and provide them equality would discriminate against them and make them more unequal than ever before. Not only would this proposal completely blur the distinctions between men and women and the corresponding team sports they participate in and facilities they utilize, it will have the effect of rolling back all the good that has been done to ensure men and women have the same opportunity to participate in educational institutions and activities.

Additionally, though Title IX has a robust religious exemption, it does not include protections for people of faith at nonreligious institutions, and the DOE has indicated that they may take further action limiting the religious exemption in the future.

How has the ERLC responded? 

The ERLC has submitted public comments laying out our concerns with the proposed rule and urging them to reconsider making these changes. Title IX directly affects a host of other regulations across agencies making the effects of this change sweeping. The ERLC will continue to monitor these changes and look for additional opportunities to raise our concerns and advocate for the recognition of God’s good design for biological sex and for the protection of religious liberty.