Friday, March 30, 2007

He's Gone...

I spent Thursday morning talking to more than 250 9th - 12th graders at a local private school about moral sexual decision making. I started by talking about how sexuality was more than sex, about my belief that teenagers deserve support from adults who will answer all of their questions and respect their decision making, and then turned to the question of the criteria for moral ethical sexual relationships. I shared that like most adults I believe that teenagers in high school are not physically, emotionally, or spiritually ready for mature sexual relationships, but that teenagers who engage in sexual intercourse of any kind must have access to contraception and condoms.

And then I turned to the questions that they had submitted on index cards. They ranged from "does size matter?", to "is it healthy or harmful to masturbate", to "do condoms protect against all STD's?" to "if we only have sex right after my period could I get pregnant?" Some of them were too crude to repeat here, but I read and answered as many as I could in the time available. The students were both surprised by my candor and intently interested in my answers.

I thought about them when I just read the AP story that Eric Keroack has just resigned as the head of the national family planning program. I wrote about his ridiculous appointment in the fall -- that President Bush had no right to appoint a person who didn't believe in contraception as the head of the national family planning program or believed that teenagers should only be taught about abstinence. It turns out that the Medicaid program in Massachusetts has just sued Dr. Keroack (for reasons yet to be revealed) and he was forced to resign from his post. I wish that reproductive health advocates could claim that our actions had brought about this resignation, but it seems that malfeasance did it for us.

Yesterday morning once again proved to me that teenagers need honest, full, and unbiased information from trained leaders -- that yes we need to encourage them to abstain but they are full of questions, very specific questions, about how to protect themselves and their partners if they are having sex -- and they deserve answers and support. Can we dare to hope that President Bush will appoint a head of the national family planning program who might think so too?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Small Step Against Gender Violence

Ruby Ordena was found murdered last week in the San Francisco Mission District, and I want to know why more of us haven't heard that. She was a 27 year old transgender Latina and according to Gender Pac, she was at least the 50th known violent murder of a transgender person since 1995.

I understand that many people are still uneducated about transgender persons and uncomfortable when they meet someone who doesn't fit our notions of masculine and feminine. The need for education about gender identity is acute, not just for youth but for adults as well.

But, where is the national outrage that Ms. Ordenana was violently killed because of her gender expression? How is it possible that we haven't heard voices condemning such senseless violence?

In fact, according to Gender Pac, the only national voice was radio host Michael Savage who called Ms. Ordenana "a psychopath" and a "freak" on his nationally syndicated radio program.

No, Mr. Savage, she was a child of God, just like you are, who deserved to live without violence or discrimination.

So, want to take a stand today. Write Mr. Savage at and tell him as a person of faith you believe that every person has dignity and worth and a right to the American promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You'll feel better. I did.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Connecticut's Quest for Marriage Equality

I am just back from my first meeting as a member of the steering committee of the National Religious Leaders Roundtable of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The meeting was in Hartford, CT and we had the opportunity to attend some of the hearing at the Connecticut State Legislature on marriage equality yesterday.

More than 95 people testified at the hearing yesterday -- it went until almost midnight. At midday, we took a break from our meeting to listen to some of the testimony and the questions and answers. The hearing room was so crowded that we were directed to an overflow room. I wish I had taken my camera. Here were the fifteen or so of us, most in clerical clothes, most gay, lesbian, or transgender, wearing bright yellow EQUALITY stickers, and fifteen or so anti-marriage equality persons wearing white "RELIGIOUS LIBERTY Marriage is between a man and a woman" stickers in one room, watching legislators question witnesses, with two capitol police posted outside the door.

They seemed surprised to see us, but there was not any opportunity for dialog or conversation as we listened to the piped in hearing. But, I really wanted to talk to them. I didn't understand how their stickers could say "Religious Liberty." I certainly stand for that. And surely they know that the bill pending in Connecticut would continue to allow each faith tradition to discern who is eligible for marriage in its own tradition. What would change is that clergy like me, who perform ceremonies for both other sex and same sex couples, would have those ceremonies recognized not just by our faith community but the state as well.

On Sunday, I had an editorial in the Connecticut Post titled "Marriage Equality: Relational Justice for All." I hope we can count on Connecticut's legislators to vote for "liberty and justice for all."

P.S. Three cheers to The JewishTheological Seminary that announced yesterday that "effective immediately, JTS will accept qualified gay and lesbian students to our rabbinical and cantorial schools." They've probably been doing that for a long time, but such students have not been able to live openly or be ordained as out gay and lesbian rabbis. Another step for justice.

Monday, March 26, 2007

More From the Episcopal Church

In a hopeful move last week, the U.S. Bishops from the Episcopal Church of the U.S. took the first step towards standing up to the Anglican demand that the U.S. churches stop ordaining gay and lesbian leaders or performing marriage rites for same sex couples.

Their statement said, “We cannot accept what would be injurious to the church and could well lead to its permanent division...the Gospel that in Christ all God’s children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ Church ’s.” The resolution also calls to an end of the silence of the Anglican Communion on the issue of anti-gay violence, proclaiming “the Gospel that stands against any violence, including violence done to women and children as well as those who are persecuted because of their differences, often in the name of God. The Dar es Salaam Communiqué is distressingly silent on this subject.”

There has yet to be a response.

I applaud the Bishops in choosing to affirm ministry to all. There can never be justification for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Let us pray for their continued courage as they prepare their final response due in September.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Take A Stand for Sexuality Education

With our attention focused on the emerging conflict between the White House and the Congress on executive privilege, it's not surprising that there was little or no news attention to the re-introduction yesterday of the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act.

But, I hope YOU will pay attention. As my regular readers know, the U.S. government has spent nearly $1.5 million to support abstinence-only-until-marriage programs to teach young people among other things that having sex before marriage is likely to cause grave psychological and physical harm. And that are prohibited from teaching anything about contraception and condoms except their failure rates.

As people of faith we know that these programs violate our commitment to truth telling. As I told Phyllis Schafley on a PBS debate program more than twenty years ago, "it is immoral to say to the young people of America 'just say no or die'." I feel that even more strongly today.

On Monday, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the United Church of Christ, and Advocates for Youth -- an organization I worked for from 1984 - 1988 -- are bringing young people of faith to meet with their Senators about the need for comprehensive sexuality education. They are asking the rest of us to join them by calling our Senators to express our support of the REAL Act. So, take a minute and make yourself a note to call your Senators on Monday.

Let's stand up for real family values.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Straight Talk on Morality

I have a feeling I'm giong to be using this picture a lot on the blog in the next few months.

I apparently missed the political follow up to General Pace's comments last week about the immorality of homosexuality. Senators Clinton and Obama were both asked by reporters whether they agreed with General Pace, and both apparently couldn't come up with answers on the spot. Both later released clarifying statements.

What -- they didn't know that a reporter or a supporter might want to know their position on this issue? How could they have been caught off-guard?

So, in case someone from these campaigns are listening, here's my suggested thirty second sound bite on morality, Senator Clinton and Senator Obama.

"We cannot judge a person's morality based on their sexual orientation. Morality is defined by relationships, not specific sexual acts or the sex of the partner. Sexual relationships should be consensual, non-exploitative, honest, mutually pleasurable, and protected."

Then, I'd hope they'd go into their support for ENDA, hate crimes legislation, and dare we hope, marriage equality.

I talked to a Philadelphia Daily News columnist extensively about sexual morality last week. She did a terrific job of capturing the Religious Institute position on morality. Read her piece in today's paper on sexual morality.

And to the growing list of potential Presidential candidates from both parties, we'd be happy to send you resources to help you with your positions on these issues.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Problem With Straights in the Military

Yesterday's Sunday New York Times magazine featured a story on PTSD in women serving in the military. It was gut-wrenching to read. The article reported that nearly one third of women receiving care at a VA hospital reported that they experienced rape or attempted rape during their service. "Of that group, 37 percent said they were raped multiple times, and 14% reported they were gang raped." Out of over 3000 charges filed by women against men in the military for sexual harassment and assault, "only 329 - about one tenth -- of them resulted in a court martial of the perpetrator."

Rather than worrying about the consensual relationships of gay and lesbian military personnel, it's past time for the military to acknowledge its problem with straight men. Need I remind you General Pace that rape is immoral -- as is sexual harrassment or exploitation of any kind? My heart breaks for the continued failure of the military to address sexuality from a moral, ethical perspective that understands that it needs an ethic and laws based on relationships not acts? General Pace, we're waiting for your response.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Mr. Mohler, We'd Love to Help

Because I was out of the country, I seem to have missed the latest skirmish in the religion and homosexuality wars.

An Associated Press story today summarizes the uproar that Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Association, started when he blogged about the etiology of homosexuality on March 2nd. His blog today decries how he has been misquoted in the media and has received hate mail from both gay people and those on the Christian right.

He states today that regardless of whether there is a biological basis for homosexuality, that in the Bible, "all forms of homosexual behavior are expressly condemned as sin." I am sure many Biblical scholars would disagree. Yes, there are the four to six "clobber" verses, but surely the overall message of Scripture is one of compassion, justice, and a recognition that we are all created in God's image. I recall the line from Ethel Waters, "God doesn't ever make junk."

But, I also wonder how Mr. Mohler would address the texts that offer another message about sexual difference -- the stories of Jonathan and David, of Ruth and Naomi, of Jesus and the beloved disciple...the texts that call for acceptance of the eunuchs, the known sexual minorities of the time. Or, how he responds to the fact that committed loving same sex relationships were unheard of in the time of Scripture and that the Romans and Leviticus texts probably refer to the practice of male cultic prostititution. And so on.

So, here's an invitation, Mr. Mohler. You seem to be both genuinely pained by the response to your blog and I hope genuinely open to thinking about these issues. I'd be happy to send you a copy of our new study guide on sexual and gender diversity as soon as it's ready and a reading list in the meantime to get you started.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Spring Crushing?

My college age daughter and I went to see "Spring Awakening" last night. Hailed as a bold and ground-breaking Broadway musical concerned with adolescent sexuality, I expected to love it.

I didn't.

The story included bad parent-child commmunication about sex, nocturnal emissions, masturbation, group masturbation, incest, beatings, group masturbation, first intercourse, same sex exploration, illegal abortion, and suicide. I couldn't help wonder about the out of town tourist who thought they were going to see a musical like Cats and Phantom. Even I was uncomfortable with the scene where the hero is center stage masturbating to orgasm, singing the entire time.

But it wasn't the topics that upset me, but the underlying message. Yes, sexual ignorance led to pregnancy...but sexual knowledge led to reform school. The young in love couple's attraction began with violence and ended with both of their deaths. In fact, all three of the main characters are dead by the end of the play.

Rather than the celebration of adolescent sexuality I expected, Spring Awakening ultimately delivers the message that adolescent exploration leads to despair and death. Joy, fun, pleasure, excitement were all strangely missing.

Although I'm guessing my most conservative readers might be upset by the sexual explicitness, I think the abstinence-only folks would agree with the ending.

I on the other hand kept thinking of Universalist minister John Murray saying "give them hope not hell." I wish they had.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Who Is Welcome In Your Congregation?

As some of my loyal readers know, I regularly assist congregations on policies and procedures to assure that children and youth are safe from sexual abuse and harassment -- both within in the congregation and at home. I am the author of a book for congregations "A Time to Heal" that addresses keeping children safe and how to potentially minister to a person with a history of sex offenses.

Today's San Diego Union includes a story of a church in California that has consulted with me about how to respond to a person on the sex offender registry list who seeks to attend their church. As a result of coming forward to the church, explaining his status, and asking for their support and an accountable structure, and the ensuing furor by some members and some parents, the man has lost his job and his home.

The story is a warning for all congregations. They did not have a safe congregations policy, they did not have procedures in place for dealing with an accused or convicted sexual offender, their congregants had not been educated about the realities of sexual abuse prevention, and so now they are in a crisis situation about what to do. They are far from alone. Almost all of the congregations who contact me for assistance around these issues have not addressed them until a KNOWN sex offender is in their midst.

Notice the word "KNOWN." Because the probability is that every congregation has members who are sexually attracted to children. The sex offender who is known to us, who is on a limited access agreement that denies him or her any contact with children but welcomes them to adult worship and education, is NOT a risk to the young people in our congregation. It is the person we don't know, the person who is sitting next to us in church or working with our children, who IS. And that's why policies for screening all volunteers who work with children, doing backround checks for all staff and employees, having a two adult in the classroom rule, providing annual sexual abuse prevention lessons to children and parents, and SO ON are so important.

Does your congregation have a written policy? What's your experience been with these issues? I hope you'll share your experience.

And if you'd like a copy of "A Time to Heal", call our publisher at 419-872-7448.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Joint Chief of Staff's Morality Problem

You probably have read that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is now making statements about morality.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Marine General Peter Pace when asked about the "don't ask, don't tell policy" of the Armed Services said,

"I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts. I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way."

Now I'm not sure who told the Joint Chief Chairman that his job includes sharing his personal moral judgments about consenting adults behaviors with the rest of us. But, I do know we never heard from Chairman Pace about the morality of several of his own raping an Iraqi woman a few months ago. And I don't recall him talking about the morality of his soliders using sexual degradation to treat prisoners a few years ago. And I don't think he's said anything about the deplorable treatment of our veterans at Walter Reed Hospital either. We're waiting, General Pace.

I think Marine General Peter Pace is more than a little confused about what's moral and what's immoral. He's announced that he will not be retracting or apologizing, despite the hurt he now know he has caused. Perhaps someone needs to remind him about "love your neighbor as yourself".

NPR Goes to Church

The National Public Radio piece I taped two weeks ago ran on "Morning Edition" today. Reporter Rachel Martin did an excellent job of portraying the important role that faith based institutions can play in providing sexuality education to young people. The story features an "Our Whole Lives" program at a UCC church in Washington State and interviews with young people. It also includes an interview with me!

In case you missed it, you can listen to "Church Tries Its Hand At Sex Education" on your computer at

P.S. Today is my 25th wedding anniversary. My spouse is a loyal reader -- happy anniversary to my life partner. What an amazing life we have created together! I am grateful and humbled to reach this milestone.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Morning Edition -- Tuesday 6:20 am and 8:20 am

I've just received word that Morning Edition, National Public Radio, will air a new piece on sexuality education in faith communities on March 13th at 6:20 and 8:20 am.

We've been working with NPR on this story since the release of our new "Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Adolescent Sexuality." Tune in to your local NPR station and let me know what you think!

The Day After the Sabbath

I am just back from a week's vacation at a health spa in Baja California.

It was a wonderful Sabbath -- a time for relaxing, reflection, hiking, stretching, meditation, and healthy eating. I resisted any inclination to do work or even read the newspaper. I chose to enjoy the world each day and to step away for seven days from trying to change it.

I am enjoying a sense of peace and centeredness this morning that I am reluctant to give up. So, I will resist commenting this morning on Ann Coulter's overt homophobia, yesterday's New York Time's article on the culture wars, or anything else that happened in the world while I was enjoying my Sabbath week. There is time enough to begin again tomorrow.

I am resolved to make at least one day a week a Sabbath day. As my good friend, Reverend Kath Booth taught me, keeping the Sabbath is not a suggestion. It's a Commandment.

I return to my ministry with in E.E. Cummings words, "the eyes of my eyes are open, the ears of my ears are awake." I wish the same for you.

Friday, March 02, 2007

New Award for Our Ministry

I've just been notified that the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing (the organization that I co-founded and direct) is a receipient of a 2007 Sexual Intelligence award.

The citation reads in part:

They’re developing a network of religious leaders committed to sexual justice, and they’re helping to create sexually healthy congregations. They help men and women conceptualize sexuality in harmony with faith values—stressing godliness, compassion, truth, integrity, and moral decision-making. By encouraging people of faith to speak out progressively on sexual issues as people of faith, the Religious Institute is bringing sexual intelligence and healing to our world.

We are very pleased to have our ministry recognized this way. Sexual Intelligence is a free monthly e-newsletter written by Dr. Marty Klein. Consider subscribing.

I will be out of the country for a week starting tomorrow. If you are a new visitor to the blog, I hope you'll check out our web site at To my returning readers, have a blessed week. I'll be back on March 12th.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

My Day at NPR

I taped a 30 minute interview with National Public Radio today.

They are following up on the release of our new "Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Adolescent Sexuality." They have sent reporters to a congregation that is teaching the excellent curriculum "Our Whole Lives" co-written by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ.

The interviewer asked me if I thought sexuality education could be more effective in a church/synagogue than in the public schools. Now there is no research that I know of about that, but I do know that at least in the UU churches we have a freedom to teach values and subjects that the public schools don't. That's part of the reason I think that faith-based sexuality education is SO important -- parents trust us to present sexuality information in the context of the values of our particular faith tradition.

That's why this past week my son's 8th grade OWL class had a homework assignment to go buy condoms. To be clear, this exercise is not to make sure these young people have condoms in their possession but have the experience of buying them LONG before they ever need them. Indeed, the teachers collect them. None of the parents object. As I explained to my son, I hoped that when he was in his late teens or a young adult and was in a loving, committed relationship, he would remember that he had been able to purchase condoms even at age 13 with minimal effort. It will be natural and expected if and when he needs them.

I wouldn't suggest trying this at a public middle school. But that's the point - in my church, we teach our values. In your church or synagogue or mosque or temple, your religious educators could teach your's. What's important is that we talk to our teens about sexuality.

I'll let you know when the piece will air.