Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sexual Justice and the Upcoming Conventions

I know many of you have been glued to the television watching the Olympics these past two weeks. I've watched women's gymnastics and a little bit of swimming, but as a political junkie, the next two weeks of the conventions will be much more "must see TV" for me.

Last week, the Religious Institute sent a letter to both presumptive candidates and campaigns, urging them to affirm sexual justice issues. I thought some of you might be interested in the letters, which were basically identical in our requests.

I can't wait to see how all of this plays out! Stay tuned.

Here's the bulk of the letter:

Specifically, we call for the following commitments to be included in the platform and your public addresses:

1. An end to more than 10 years of federal support for ineffective, abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, and a renewed commitment to comprehensive, age-appropriate sexuality education throughout the life span.

As religious leaders, we hope that young people will learn about their sexuality not primarily from the entertainment media or their peers, but from their parents, faith communities and school-based programs that address the biological, psychological, cultural, ethical and spiritual dimensions of sexuality.

The research is conclusive: Teaching about contraception is not associated with an increase in sexual activity or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Adolescents who receive comprehensive sexuality education have a substantially lower risk of teenage pregnancy than those who receive abstinence-only education or no sex education at all. Abstinence-only education has no impact on reducing teen pregnancy, delaying sexual initiation, or reducing STIs.

2. Full access to affordable, high-quality sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception, emergency contraception, abortion, prenatal care, adoption, HIV/STI prevention and treatment, and safe and proven assisted reproductive technologies. We also urge support for a global HIV/AIDS program free of abstinence-only restrictions.

It is precisely because we regard life as sacred that we believe it should not be created carelessly. As religious leaders committed to women's moral agency, we cannot support any strategy to make abortion more difficult to obtain. Rather, we must ensure that women have both the motivation (good education, jobs and hope for their futures) and the resources (including comprehensive sexuality education and access to high-quality family planning services) that will enable them to avoid unintended pregnancies.

We oppose measures that would limit access to reproductive services, such as coercive parental consent and notification requirements, and denying international family planning assistance to agencies in developing countries. We call instead for providing resources for parental and adolescent counseling, and for offering women full and accurate information about pregnancy options.

Recognizing that rates of unintended births are five times higher among low-income women, that more than half of the unwanted children in the U.S. are born into poverty, and that HIV/AIDS infections disproportionately affect poor communities and people of color, we must ensure that all citizens, regardless of income or geography, have access to sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services.

3. Full equality – including marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples and a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act – for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and their families.

Living in a time of rapid social change calls us to recognize the diversity of God’s creation and to honor the many ways that people live and love. America is the most religiously diverse nation in the world. No single religious voice can speak for all traditions on issues of marriage and sexuality, nor should government take sides on religious differences. Rather, religious groups must have the freedom to decide for themselves who is eligible for marriage in their own tradition, and clergy should be free to solemnize marriages without state interference.
America also is a nation of diverse families. Civil rights protections and the legal benefits of marriage strengthen families, enabling them to build stable, empowering and respectful relationships. Yet current law excludes married same-sex couples from 1,138 federal benefits, including Social Security benefits, veterans’ benefits and tax benefits. Civil rights protections and marriage benefits are particularly vital to the well-being of millions of American children being raised by same-sex couples.

Our positions on these issues are grounded not only in social and scientific research, but also in the experience of individuals and communities who are frequently overlooked or marginalized in our society. Our positions uphold a consistent Biblical mandate, expressed in other sacred texts as well, to love, do justice, seek equality, and act with compassion. Most important, they reflect a faithful affirmation of sexuality as a divine blessing, an embodied capacity for expressing love and generating life, for building relationships of mutual respect, and for promoting the well-being of people and society.

Over the last nine years, over 2,800 religious leaders from more than 50 faith traditions have endorsed the Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing, which recognizes sexuality as “central to our humanity and integral to our spirituality.” In that time, the Religious Institute also has published a series of Open Letters to Religious Leaders, articulating progressive, theologically informed positions on sexuality education, abortion as a moral decision, marriage equality, adolescent sexuality, sexual and gender diversity, and assisted reproductive technologies. Together, the Religious Declaration and Open Letters – written in collaboration with prominent theologians from a range of religious backgrounds – constitute a platform for sexual justice that we encourage your campaign to adopt and actively promote.

We'll let you know if we hear from them!

1 comment:

Kath said...

Hi Debra
I discovered your blog while googling for posters to put up around the school to advertise sexuality and gender diversity, your blog came up with the article about the national day of silence came up. I'm a year 12 (that’s our last year of high school) student from a school in Melbourne, Australia. Myself and a group of other enthusiastic students are organising a group and a whole-school campaign to reduce queerphobia within the school
I've got a blog too