Transgender Bathroom Edict Rescinded--and This Day in History

Yesterday, President Donald Trump's administration revoked the Obama Education Department's edict requiring public schools to allow students to use whichever bathroom more nearly corresponded to their gender identity du jour

Last May, Obama had instructed public schools to let transgender students use the bathrooms matching their chosen gender identity, and threatened to withhold funding for schools that did not comply.  A federal judge had already stayed the Obama edict, but now the Trump administration has withdrawn it.

The Obama guidelines were supposedly based on Title IX, a provision passed back in 1972 when there were only two sexes, which was intended to equalize funding for women's college athletics.  It would have been more accurate to say, as Hollywood movies do, that the Obama guidelines were "inspired by" Title IX.  The public school bathroom edict was merely the capstone, or pièce de résistance, of Obama's lawless re-writing of Title IX, a subject explained in detail here.  It remains to be seen what other parts of Obama's unilateral creative re-writing of Title IX will be rolled back by Trump, Secretary of Education Betsy de Vos, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who spearheaded the lawsuit challenging the Obama edict, commented:  "Our fight over the bathroom directive has always been about former President Obama's attempt to bypass Congress and rewrite the laws to fit his political agenda for radical social change."

 

This Day in History -- The Diocletian Persecution Begins

Sculpture of Diocletian

Sculpture of Diocletian

On the morning of February 23, 303, Roman soldiers broke into the largest church in Nicomedia, then serving as Diocletian's imperial capital, burned the Scriptures, and then destroyed the whole church.  The next day, February 24, 303, Diocletian issued an edict ordering the destruction of Christian Churches throughout the empire, prohibiting Christians from assembling to worship, and ordering the destruction of the scriptures and liturgical books,. This was to be the worst, and last, persecution of Christians under Rome (in its pagan phase).

Diocletian believed that the cult of the emperor--treating the emperor as a god, and sacrificing to him--was important, in fact absolutely essential, to the unity of the Roman Empire.  Here, he came into conflict with Christians, who believed that only the one true God could be worshiped and would not worship the emperor. 

"The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer" by Jean-Leon Gerome, 1883.

"The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer" by Jean-Leon Gerome, 1883.

The irony is that by this time in its history, Rome had given up on a single emperor for the whole empire; there were senior and junior emperors in both the West and the East, with Constantius ruling France and Britain, Maximian ruling in Italy, Spain and the Maghreb, Galerius ruling in Greece and Southeastern Europe, and Diolcletian ruling in the Levant.  Diocletian and Galerius were the worst persecutors, while Maximian was much less enthusiastic, and Constantius largely ignored the whole thing.

But in the east, the edicts kept coming.  In June, 303, Diocletian issued a second edict ordering the arrest of all deacons, lectors, priests, bishops, and exorcists, an order which overburdened the prisons.  A third edict followed in November, which promised freedom for any imprisoned bishop or church officer who would sacrifice to the emperor or other pagan deity.  In February, 304, the fourth and worst edict issued, requiring Christians to gather in a public place and offer collective sacrifice, on pain of death if they refused. This last edict, although it was never enforced by Maximian or Constantius, led to substantial loss of life. 

In the West, the persecution ended in 306, but continued in the east until May, 311, when it was ended by Galerius' Edict of Toleration.