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Sounding the Alarm: Tennessee Governor and Southern Baptists Raise Concerns About Transgender Clinic

The governor of Tennessee and top Southern Baptist leaders in Nashville are going after the Transgender Health Clinic at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) after videos posted by commentator Matt Walsh raised concerns about harm to children, religious liberty, and financial incentives.

In the wake of the postings, Gov. Bill Lee (R-TN) is calling for a state investigation, saying the pediatric transgender clinic raises “serious moral, ethical and legal concerns.” A statement from his office added “we should not allow permanent, life-altering decisions that hurt children or policies that suppress religious liberties, all for the purpose financial gain.”

One video shows Dr. Ellen Clayton, a VUMC professor of law and pediatrics, telling staff that objecting to providing transgender medical care is “problematic.” 

Speaking at a podium, she explained, “saying that you’re not going to do something because of your conscience, your religious beliefs is not without consequences. It should not be without consequences.” 

Another video posted by Walsh showed a Vanderbilt doctor gushing about financial incentives. “These surgeries make alot of money,” said Dr. Shayne Taylor, “So female to male chest reconstruction could bring in $40,000.”

Ultimately, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti (R) would lead any state investigation. A spokesperson told CBN News this week that Skrmetti’s office is aware of “allegations of illegal conduct at the Clinic for Transgender Health at VUMC”  and that he would use his authority to ensure compliance with state law. The office did not provide details about the allegations.

Southern Baptist leaders, whose convention headquarters are based in Nashville, also sounded the alarm in the wake of the Walsh video postings.

Brent Leatherwood, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said the reports revealed what the ERLC has long decried, turning children into “pawns of culture war experimentation.”

He said the religious liberty issues raised were also worrisome. “Equally upsetting are the threats levied against those whose conscience objects to this work or whose religious beliefs compel them to speak against it,” he said.

Southern Baptist President Bart Barber described the reports as “frightening” and former Southern Baptist President J.D. Greear also weighed in, calling them “horrendous.”

VUMC disputes the accusations, saying the posts “mispresents facts” about its transgender care.

In a statement provided to CBN News, VUMC said its policies do “allow employees to decline to participate in care they find morally objectionable and do not permit discrimination against employees who choose to do so,” noting that the policies include staff with religious beliefs that don’t support transgender medical treatment.

VUMC said its transgender clinic provides care to a “high-risk population” that is “consistently underserved.”

VUMC opened its transgender clinic in 2018 and is known nationally for its work in the field.

Across the country, more than 60 pediatric gender clinics have started since the first clinic opened in Boston in 2007.

A growing number of US doctors are concerned about the substantial lack of evidence surrounding what’s known as gender-affirming care. The treatments include hormones, puberty blockers, and surgery which can permanently mutilate or sterilize children.

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