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‘Galling lack of concern’ at the center of W.Va. transgender athlete controversy, church says


BRIDGEPORT, W. Va. (BP) — Simpson Creek Baptist Church’s record in defending free speech goes back further than the United States itself.

Founded in 1770, members of the church joined other Baptists four years later in a lawsuit against the Continental Congress. The Revolutionary War had ended, but the lawsuit stated Baptists would not participate in the formation of the new nation if certain liberties were not secured. One of those liberties was the right to free speech.

In the end they were assured those rights would be enshrined if they joined others in establishing the U.S.

Now, 250 years later, those very rights are being tossed aside, the church said in a statement to the Harrison County School Board, which was shared with Baptist Press.

Last week, five middle school girls were barred from competing in track and field events after refusing to participate against a boy who identifies as a girl. Prior to that development, Simpson Creek Baptist Church issued a statement in support of one of its members who had lost her place on the team to the boy.

The church member, 15-year-old Adaleia Cross, wrote about her experience in a column for Fox News.


“I started participating in sports at an early age and have been active my whole life,” she said. “I’ve tried most sports available in my area, like soccer, swimming, cheer, dance, gymnastics, running and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It’s what I love. But something I love has turned into a source of pain.”

She recounts how, when she was in the seventh grade, a sixth-grade boy known as BPJ joined the girls track team.

“In my 8th-grade year, BPJ started making extremely inappropriate comments to me and other girls that made me very uncomfortable. In any other situation, I would report the comments to my school immediately. But since BPJ identifies as transgender, I was worried I would be labeled as transphobic, and it would make things awkward on my team. So, I didn’t say anything and tried to stay as far away from BPJ as possible,” she wrote.

She and her parents reported the harassment to school officials, but say nothing was done. During the April 2023 season, BPJ began changing physically, Cross wrote, “getting taller, shoulders broadening, voice getting deeper, as a male hitting puberty does.”

Though she had been competing in the shotput and discus for two years, Cross was replaced in both by the time a key meet at the end of the season arrived. “BPJ, a male almost two years younger than me, had officially replaced me,” she said.

In addition, she wrote, “BPJ rubbed it in my face, made me feel inferior, and trash-talked me for not throwing as far.”

A limitation in submission

On April 30, West Virginia Senate President-Lieutenant Gov. Craig P. Blair issued a statement in support of the five track-and-field athletes who were barred after refusing to compete against the boy. In applying that ban, he said, Harrison County Schools have shown “a galling lack of concern for the free-speech considerations of those students.”

Cross can be counted among those students whose free speech has been violated, said Simpson Creek’s letter to the school board.

“Simpson Creek Baptist Church knows from its own historical context that when redress from an authority violates the free exercise of an individual’s conscience, those who are not in the position of authority will suffer unduly under the law,” the letter stated.

Sharing an appreciation for the school board and offering “a due measure of respect and grace,” the letter said the church teaches its students to respect and submit to authority.

However, that only goes so far.

“When it becomes evident that Harrison County Schools no longer respects the constitutional right to a free conscience, reinforced by the policies of West Virginia, and hard-won by Baptists like those in Harrison County, we cannot demand our students submit to the punitive measures of those authorities. Likewise, the citizens of Harrison County ought to hold accountable those who have violated these students’ rights,” the church said.

School board asked to respond

In its letter, the church asked the school board to review policies that led to the “punitive measures” against the girls who refused to compete and to see that those policies are changed. It also asked for a course of action in rectifying the situation where males are sharing a locker room with females. A response was requested by the May 7 school board meeting.

At that gathering, board members briefly discussed the situation. One said he and others “had nothing against” the five athletes who were barred.

Pastor Sean Wegener told BP today that he had met with a school board member who recommended that the concerns be shared with the superintendent.

“Our stance hasn’t changed,” Wegener said. “First, we need to address the protest concerns. Also, the locker room issue hasn’t be mentioned or talked about, and it needs to be.”

The church’s letter said: “We believe that the protest of the five student-athletes is justified, the punitive measures taken against them are morally reprehensible, showing a galling lack of concern for our daughters, and that the violation of our girls’ safe space in the locker room requires attention.”

Part of a nationwide conversation

The West Virginia case is directly tied to the Biden Administration’s recent changes to Title IX and how it can turn back the clock on women’s sports, observers say. A policy approved on April 8 by the NAIA’s Council of Presidents said only student-athletes of member schools who are biological females may compete in women’s sports.

The case has received national attention. Harrison County Board of Education members said they had been contacted by people from Michigan, Georgia and Florida.

Shane Pruitt, Next Gen director for the North American Mission Board, has been addressing the issue in speaking with students at youth and collegiate events as well as with pastors and church leaders.

“Teens, college students and young adults want to talk about these things,” he said. “It’s typically us adults who are scared. When culture screams about these things but the church remains silent, then a whole generation only hears one worldview. We need to speak where the Bible speaks, and the Bible speaks on these things.

“God determines sex (Genesis 1:27). He is Creator. He is perfect. He doesn’t make mistakes. If He is creator, then He also gets to be definer. It’s arrogant for us to think we get to redefine what God has already defined.

“It’s not hateful to say that. It’s actually more unloving to affirm and celebrate someone into believing that somehow a perfect God made a mistake on them.”