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When seeking the best for others gets you fired

Louisville doctor takes a stand for free speech—and for vulnerable children

University of Louisville Health Sciences Campus Wikimedia Commons

When seeking the best for others gets you fired
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When a doctor loses his career for discussing which treatment plan might serve particular patients best, there’s something very wrong. But that’s exactly the state of things in American medicine, where a well-respected leader in his field can lose his career in the blink of an eye, all for expressing his scientifically grounded reservations about current trends in treating gender dysphoria in children.

When we ignore the truth, people suffer—especially the most vulnerable people. And sometimes, standing up for the weak and the defenseless looks like standing up for the right to speak the truth that could help set them free.

Dr. Allan M. Josephson spearheaded the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Louisville for almost 15 years. Under Dr. Josephson, the division went from barely staying afloat to a nationally renowned program. Then in 2017, Dr. Josephson appeared as part of a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation, where he shared some of his views, developed over 35 years of working as a psychiatrist, on how to best care for children experiencing gender dysphoria.

Dr. Josephson encouraged medical professionals to understand and treat underlying psychological issues in children experiencing gender dysphoria instead of rushing to prescribe puberty-blocking drugs and cross-sex hormones—life-altering interventions that do not address underlying sources of distress.

Following the lecture, Dr. Josephson was demoted, harassed, and later fired.

A few of his colleagues complained to university officials, who swiftly demoted Dr. Josephson from his role as division director to junior faculty member. Not long after, the university refused to renew Dr. Josephson’s contract, terminating his employment.

Dr. Josephson spoke on the panel because he is deeply concerned that parents and children struggling with gender dysphoria are only hearing one perspective, one that pushes expensive, irreversible procedures and ignores other possible psychiatric issues. Speaking as a medical professional (not as a representative of the University of Louisville), Dr. Josephson expressed scientifically sound opinions based in decades of research and observation. Studies have shown that other psychological issues—like personal disorders, trauma from abuse, and depression—often co-exist with gender dysphoria. Treating gender dysphoria without addressing these underlying issues is like putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg.

Children are simply not mature enough to make this kind of life-changing decision.

University officials didn’t care about the truth. They fired Dr. Josephson because they didn’t like his beliefs.

That’s wrong. Professors shouldn’t have to fear for their careers when they share views that question the prevailing orthodoxy. Researchers should not have to worry about the consequences when they talk about their findings. As Christians, we recognize that the stakes here are high. One way God reveals truth to us is through nature; when we aren’t allowed to speak truthfully and freely about what we find there, people can get hurt.

The reality is that 85 to 95 percent of children who experience gender dysphoria come to terms with their biological sex naturally. With proper psychiatric support, these children make peace with their bodies and avoid extremes like expensive surgeries, sterility, and a lifetime of dependence on drugs and hormones. Children are simply not mature enough to make this kind of life-changing decision, especially not when they are dealing with other psychological difficulties.

Dr. Josephson recognizes that children need help and protection; they need guidance, reassurance, and stability so they can work through unaddressed traumas and find peace—and he doesn’t think peace comes by ignoring underlying concerns and rushing into irreversible decisions.

That is why Dr. Josephson is so committed to defending the free speech rights of faculty and why he filed a lawsuit against the university officials who demoted him and ended his career. At a hearing on Oct. 26, his attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom asked the court to protect freedom of speech for him and for all researchers—especially those whose work leads them to politically incorrect conclusions.

There’s a lesson here for Christians. Psalm 19 opens with the famous line, “The heavens declare the glory of God,” which teaches us that we can learn about His ways by studying the world around us. The psalm moves from seeing God’s glory in the world around us to learning about His laws, His love of justice, and His compassion for the least among us. There is an intrinsic connection between learning the truth and living in love. When government officials stifle or silence the truth, it actually becomes harder for us to love each other well and promote human flourishing.

Dr. Josephson knows that. His whole career has been dedicated to caring for patients, especially vulnerable children. That is why he is willing to stand up for the truth: so that he can continue to serve his patients with love.

Christiana Kiefer

Christiana Kiefer is senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom.

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