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:: Clergy statement of support ::

PLANNED PARENTHOOD FEDERATION OF AMERICA
CLERGY ADVISORY BOARD STATEMENT ON COMPREHENSIVE SEXUALITY EDUCATION

We, the undersigned, are clergy and lay religious leaders who represent diverse religious traditions and come from all walks of life. We believe that an individual's sexuality must be affirmed as an essential dimension of being human. Concerned about the sexual health of our country, we strongly support the bold and courageous recommendations of the "Surgeon General's Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior" for more knowledge, more services, and more open discussion.

Accordingly, we call on our elected leaders to ensure that our young people receive medically accurate and balanced sexuality education.

Speak the Truth
As clergy, we have a responsibility to remind our congregations, our communities, and our elected leaders that both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, as well as the teachings of other religious faiths, view the body and the physical world as a sacred arena in which God acts. Did not God bless human beings with the opportunity to bear children as a singular sign not only of the sacredness of life but also as a sign of their capacity for sexual intimacy?

Yet we treat human sexuality as inherently dangerous and off-limits for discussion. Discomfort with their own sexuality inhibits many parents from talking with their children about this most natural part of life. A lack of information and understanding about sexuality also contributes to painful discrimination against sexual minorities.

Our sexuality is God given, and so, too, is the command that we instruct our children so that they will gain understanding and the ability to make wise choices.

Fund Programs That Work
The current debate over sexuality education in the nation's public schools is one more example of how theological abstraction and moral absolutes have been permitted to substitute for common sense and compassion, not to mention the lessons that medicine and science can teach us.

For the sake of our young people, we urge our elected leaders not to ignore the expert findings that there is no reliable, scientific evidence to demonstrate that abstinence-only sexuality education works, while there is substantial evidence to show that comprehensive sexuality education has been successful in preventing teen pregnancy.1 ?

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Substituting dicta for instruction stifles the kind of open discussion that fosters the development of healthy and responsible attitudes toward our God-given gift of sexuality.
As community leaders who care about the well being of young people, we, like a substantial majority of Americans, encourage teens to abstain from sexual intercourse. But, like a substantial majority of Americans, we also recognize that many will not.2

Giving young people complete information does not influence them to engage in sexual activity any earlier — that's what the research shows.3 How can we, in all good conscience, deny young people knowledge that would protect them from becoming parents before they are ready to have children and would also protect them from either contracting or spreading sexually transmitted infections?

Don't Discriminate
Finally, we believe that public funding that supports only abstinence-only education discriminates against the religious denominations that support comprehensive sexuality education. Twelve denominations favor curriculums that discuss abstinence as one option and include information about all aspects of human sexuality, with the objective of developing sexually healthy adults who can make responsible choices about their reproductive lives.4

Many faith traditions teach that children must be treated, with due allowance for their ages, as responsible persons who can make critical decisions about their lives. Each child has a conscience. Each can be taught to become a reasoning and reasonable person. Each must be taught about human sexuality, so that each can make informed and responsible choices about his or her sexual life, including the choice to remain abstinent. As an integral part of this process, our young people have a right to the best information possible. We pledge to dedicate ourselves to ensuring that they receive nothing less.

If you support this statement and want to learn how to help

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1 See Douglas Kirby, Emerging Answers (Washington: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2001).
2
Jacqueline Darroch, et. al., "Changing Emphasis on Sexuality Education in U.S. Public Secondary Schools." Family Planning Perspectives 32(5): 204, 205 (2000).
3
See Kirby, op. cit.
4
Debra Haffner, A Time to Speak: Faith Communities and Sexuality Education (N.Y.: SIECUS, 1998).

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