Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Religious Leaders Ask Obama Administration to End Abstinence-Only Education

This morning I sent a letter to the White House, on behalf of more than 925 ordained clergy and national religious leaders, urging an end to federal funding for the three abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and calling for a new national commitment to comprehensive sexuality education.

You can read the whole letter and view the entire list of endorsements at our web site.

Here are some portions of the letter:

Dear Mr. President:

Thank you for your courageous action this week to lift the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and for the guarantee of scientific integrity in federal policy making. I am particularly grateful that your decision not only puts science before ideology, but is grounded in your beliefs as a person of faith that we must do all we can to advance human knowledge, alleviate human suffering, and enable all people to flourish.

It is with that shared conviction that I am writing to encourage your action on another issue, one that is vital to the well-being of American youth, in particular – eliminating funding for the federal abstinence-only-until-marriage sexuality education programs. Public health professionals have amply demonstrated that these programs contain medically inaccurate information and that they are not effective in reducing teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Strong public health arguments support comprehensive sexuality education.

But, we also want you to know that there are strong moral foundations for supporting sexuality education. It is with adult guidance and comprehensive information and education – education that includes abstinence, contraception and STI prevention – that young people will be prepared to make responsible decisions about their sexuality.

More than 925 clergy and national religious leaders join me today in endorsing the Religious Institute’s Open Letter to Religious Leaders about Sex Education. "Young people need to know ‘there is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,’" the Open Letter says, "but they also require the skills to make moral and healthy decisions about relationships for themselves now and in their future adult lives." 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.

Read the rest of the letter here.

The religious leaders who endorsed the call for comprehensive sexuality education lead major denominations and national faith-based organizations. They serve in local congregations and communities; they teach in schools, parishes and seminaries. They represent every state and more than fifty faith traditions. Together, they affirm that "education that respects and
empowers young people has more integrity than education based on incomplete information, fear, and shame."

So far, the Obama administration has lifted the Mexico City ban, begun the process of lifting the midnight clause on health care professionals, and lifted the ban on stem cell research. With people of faith and religious leaders across the country, we are grateful for these steps for sexual and social justice. We pray that an end to programs that deny young people life saving information is not far behind.

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