Eliminate Religious Control of Sex Education in Public Schools

In May 2009, using federal “abstinence-only-until-marriage” funds, the State of Mississippi held a teen abstinence summit. According to the ACLU:

“The 2009 summit featured religious themes and overtly Christian messages, including a lengthy presentation about the Ten Commandments by Judge John N. Hudson. Judge Hudson told the audience, ‘Abstain, God says, from promiscuous sex – thou shall not commit adultery. …Why would He tell us not to do it? He's not. He's telling us that He created this great and wonderful gift for a special and unique committed relationship that is to last forever.’ The program also included several prayers and a performance to gospel songs by the Pilgrim Rest Mime Ministry.”

Religious ideology, not medical science, is being taught to many public school children across the country.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics states that "Abstinence-only programs have not demonstrated successful outcomes with regard to delayed initiation of sexual activity or use of safer sex practices... Programs that offer a discussion of HIV prevention and contraception as the best approach for adolescents who are sexually active have been shown to delay the initiation of sexual activity and increase the proportion of sexually active adolescents who reported using birth control."
  • Since 1997, the federal government has allocated more than $1 billion for abstinence-only-until marriage programs. Educational programs on sexuality for teens should protect the health and safety of children -- not promote a particular religious perspective.
  • By law, abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are prohibited from providing lifesaving information about the health benefits of contraception and condoms for the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, and unintended pregnancies.
  • Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs contain false and misleading "medical" statements and teach religious propaganda and theologically driven gender stereotypes.
  • Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs promote a conservative religious perspective over a secular science-based approach to sex education.
  • Researchers studied the National Survey of Family Growth to determine the impact of sexuality education on youth sexual risk-taking for young people ages 15-19, and found that teens who received comprehensive sex education were 50 percent less likely to experience pregnancy than those who received abstinence-only education.
  • The following sampling of organizations is in support of medically accurate, secular sex education programs: the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the Institute of Medicine.

The Secular Coalition for America believes that government-funded sex education in public schools must teach sound science. Our first priority when crafting educational programs on sexuality for teens should be protecting the health and safety of our nation's children -- not promoting and endorsing a religious perspective. Moreover, the curricula of our sex education programs must be directed by medical and education professionals, not religious leaders.

For more detail, see our position paper.


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