Allan M. Josephson

Thursday, I received an email from Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBT hate group. It is a money-grubber with the subject line: Who will speak up for the children?. To answer ADF’s rhetorical question, many people will speak for the children. Most of them want those kids’ doctors to adhere to the best scientific standards.

I will get back to the text of the email. First, an Allan M. Josephson refresher course:

Dr. Allan M. Josephson was head of juvenile psychiatry at University of Louisville Medical Center. Josephson opposes gender-affirmative care for trans youth. The alternative is some form of conversion therapy; a pseudoscientific intervention to change a child’s gender identity.

On October 16, 2017 I sent an email to Dr. Toni Ganzel who is the dean of the University of Louisville School of Medicine. On review, I sincerely regret that I did not send Josephson a copy of the email. Not doing so was a breach of professional courtesy. The email reads, in part:

Dr. Josephson was involved in a symposium at the far-right Heritage Foundation. According to this blog post (at an anti-LGBT hate group) and this post at Catholic News Agency, Dr. Josephson expresses some opinions that cause me to wonder if he is an advocate of gay conversion therapy or trans conversion therapy. Is he substituting religious dogma for science? … As you are probably aware so-called “reparative” therapy lacks any scientific basis. Josephson’s opinion on the matter is less important than what he is teaching medical students. Is he conforming to the standards of his own professional organization?

Dr. Josephson claims to have discovered the underlying cause of gender dysphoria in a patient of undisclosed age. If that is true (I have some doubts) then he should publish a paper to a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. It would come as quite a surprise to experts in this field. What is he telling students?

Josephson was eventually demoted and his contract was not renewed. He is now suing the university for viewpoint discrimination. I did not know that an employer was required to renew a contract. Suffice it to say that, in a professional environment, not all points of view are valid or welcome. Most people have been fired from a job at some point in their career. I have — more than once. Getting canned is never our fault. Some people sue their former employer.

According to ADF:

In 2017, Dr. Allan Josephson was asked to speak on a panel at the Heritage Foundation entitled “Gender Dysphoria in Children: Understanding the Science and Medicine.”

As the Chief of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Louisville for nearly 15 years, Dr. Josephson had a lot to say on the subject. He felt confident he could lend his expertise and perspective, so he agreed to participate.

The choreographer of this “panel” was Ryan T. Anderson. Anderson asked Josephson to join the festivities because he knew that Josephson’s views conformed to those of Ryan T. Anderson which, in turn, conform to the views of the Catholic Church. This was a panel of cranks. Joining Josephson and Anderson were Michelle Cretella and Paul Hruz. This was a religious event.

But Dr. Josephson’s perspective isn’t exactly what you would call “politically correct” these days. In fact, he shares many of the same concerns you probably do, XXXXXX.

Political correctness is irrelevant. Josephson’s perspective is not medically correct. Medical professionals have differing opinions with respect to the proper treatment of patients. As scientists their perspectives are shaped by evidence. Josephson’ perspective seems to have been formed from religious dogma.

ADF actually undermines their own cause by claiming that their constituency (mostly ultra-conservative Christians) shares the concerns of Dr. Josephson. It pinpoints the religious nature of those concerns.

He’s alarmed at the way many medical professionals treat gender dysphoria. And he’s particularly worried about the negative and often permanent effects of giving children hormones to treat it. After all, such drastic measures often result in the sterilization of children with no proven effectiveness. But far too often, these drugs are given almost immediately, without exploring what is happening in the child’s life.

Bullshit. Josephson is worried about the idea that the existence of transgender people (children and adults) conflicts with Genesis 1:27. A recent communique from the Vatican made that perfectly clear. It is titled: Male and Female He Created Them. ADF’s claim of immediacy in prescribing hormones is not supported by evidence. It is conjectural political hyperbole. It is untrue. Claiming the absence of “proven effectiveness” is completely untrue. These drugs save lives. They are provided under strict guidelines with parental consent.

Which is the greater danger to children? Doctors prescribing hormones in conformity with medical science or doctors offering the pseudoscience of conversion therapy? When did Josephson publish research on this issue to a peer reviewed academic journal?

Later on:

The only reason the university demoted Dr. Josephson is because he holds a different view than some of his colleagues.

XXXXXX, this is unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court has said over and over again that unpopular viewpoints are protected by the First Amendment. And that’s especially true in the academic context because universities are supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, not an assembly line for one type of thought!

But that didn’t stop the University of Louisville.

Really? I want an academic appointment to the Franciscan University of Steubenville. There I want to teach queer theory and offer direct opposition to the teachings of the Church. Now it is true that University of Louisville is a public university but ADF’s boilerplate “marketplace of ideas” rhetoric translates to Christian privilege.

ADF’s first problem is that Josephson is time barred. The statute of limitations is one year in claims arising in Kentucky. The events took place in November, 2017. The complaint was filed on March 28, 2019 which means that anything which occurred prior to March 28, 2018 is out of bounds. A motion to dismiss is pending for some time.

My non-lawyerly opinion is that people are not entitled to espouse unprofessional crackpottery. I do not know if I was responsible for this but I do think that I asked the right question: What was Josephson teaching medical students?

The judge hearing this case is Rebecca Grady Jennings, a Trump appointee (which means in Kentucky the choice of Mitch McConnell). Jennings was confirmed nearly unanimously. It is a toss-up I suppose.

One thing I am certain of is that if ADF loses at the district court they will exhaust appeals, all the way up to the Supreme Court. Josephson doesn’t pay for any of this. Taxpayers pay court costs and ADF’s subsidy of tax-deducted contributions.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.