Depending on More than Faith: Comprehensive Sex Ed in Church

Although social conservatives have dominated discourse around religion and sexuality, it turns out that millions of religious and spiritual youth and adults believe that faith, and a positive approach to healthy sexuality, are not mutually exclusive. 

I never thought that I would see that day where I would come across an article discussing how Churches across the nation are moving away from the “Abstinence-only” approach to Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE). In my mind, as with the minds of many Americans, comprehensive sex education and religion seemed to be at odds, especially when it came to same-sex sexuality. So when I read that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) published a faith-based comprehensive sex ed curriculum in 2006, AND affirms human sexuality, including the expressions of sexuality that occur within same-sex relationships, as a gift from God, my mind nearly exploded. Moreover, the United Methodist Church passed an official resolution in 2010 to encourage congregations to take up the issue of sex education.

But this revelation is about (God) damn time!

429px-Brenig_Evergislus_HillebrandFor too long, social conservatives have used religion to keep comprehensive sex education out of the classroom. They especially have a beef with condoms. They have spent more than one billion in public funding within the U.S. to promote abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that distort the health benefits of condoms. They also argued at international conferences that promoting condom use encourages teens to have sex, despite overwhelming research to the contrary: educating youth about condoms does not promote sexual activity. In fact, research indicates that young people who are educated about the health benefits of condoms are more likely than other young people to use condoms when they eventually initiate sex.

So I commend the work of religious leaders who are moving away from this restrictive, scientifically invalid viewpoint. While some religious leaders and institutions, like the Catholic Church in New York City, continue to fight against comprehensive sex education in schools and remind us how there should be a separation between Church and State (because we all know that is NOT the reality in the U.S.), at least others are tackling the issues on Church ground, such as the First United Methodist Church in Madison, WI, who will introduce a comprehensive sexual education program, “Our Whole Lives,” for the first time this year. Not only will discussing human sexuality in a positive light foster a new, cooperative relationship between faith and sexuality, but also will encourage more teens to talk to their parents and Church leaders about their issues and concerns, instead of sometimes relying on inaccurate sources or porn. There will always be barriers to comprehensive sex education to overcome, but at least this is another step towards victory in the fight for youth sexual rights.

Alifa Watkins

Alifa Watkins

Alifa Watkins is an honors student at American University (Washington, DC) majoring in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her interests in sex education and youth sexual health motivates her research, blogging, and activism for comprehensive sex education, more progressive attitudes about adolescent sexuality, and the improvement of sexual health outcomes in America.
Alifa Watkins