Tag: Sex

Changing the Conversation about Religion, Sexuality, Abortion and Justice

It’s time to talk about religion and abortion.
It’s time to talk about religion and sexuality.
It’s time to talk about religion and justice.


For too long, the extreme religious right has dominated public conversation about religion and sexuality in this country. As a result, an unprecedented number of bills are being proposed–and far too many are passing–that attempt to write one narrow-minded, dangerous religious view of abortion and sexuality into law.

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice believes that it’s time to tell the truth: most people of faith, like the majority of Americans overall, support access to contraception, sexuality education, and reproductive healthcare including abortion. We hold this view because access to education and services accomplishes two vital goals that are deeply grounded in both religious and democratic values:

  • Empowering individuals, couples, families and communities to have a healthy and fulfilling relationship–indeed, a sacred relationship–with sex, sexuality and reproduction.
  • Respecting the right and moral agency of each person to make personal reproductive health decisions according to their own beliefs and values.

As people of faith, and as Americans, we are called to seek for justice for all. Restrictions on access to sexuality education and reproductive healthcare are unjust because they disproportionately affect those already struggling – most often low income communities and people of color. Silence is no longer an option and it’s time for a change. Whether or not you identify as a person of faith, we need your help to change the conversation about religion, abortion, sexuality, and justice. Join us!

Today I pledged: 

YES! I believe that It’s Time to change the conversation about religion, abortion, sexuality and justice. Therefore, I pledge:

  1. To speak up and take action when religion is being used as a tool of judgment and shame rather than a positive force for compassion, health and healing.
  2. To help change the perception of religion by sharing the truth whenever I can: The majority of people of faith – in keeping with their religious values, not in spite of them—support access to contraception, sexuality education, and reproductive healthcare including abortion.
  3. To model a different kind of conversation, creating space for a more honest, thoughtful and mutually respectful dialogue on matters related to religion, abortion, sexuality, and justice.
Join me in taking the pledge. Its time for an open, honest, non-judgmental, conversation about religion and sexuality, abortion and justice.  Take the pledge here

Sex Education: An Open Letter to Religious Leaders

Education of our young is a partnership between parents, community and teachers. We struggle to figure out how to teach our children values without inculcating them with dogma. Certain areas are off limits in our public schools – prayer, for example.

But certain subjects need to be taught: health and sexuality, for instance. We teach that the guiding principle of sexuality in the Jewish tradition is K’doshim tih’yu—“You shall be holy,” which means that sexuality is linked to blessing, commandment, and God. K’doshim tih’yu, you remember, comes from Leviticus; Or Ami’s Sheryl Braunstein wrote a beautiful song about it here.

Not long ago, our Or Ami Center for Jewish Parenting brought Rabbi Laura Novak Winer, author of the Reform Jewish Movement’s Sacred Choices curriculum, to help us begin a conversation about talking to our children about sexuality. Since then, we have begun preparations to teach elements of the curriculum in our Temple Teen Night program. Why?

We live in a world where our children are exposed each year to thousands of messages – on tv shows, reality shows, movies, commercials, video games and more – about sexuality, most of them reducing it to something physical that people can do when they want with few consequences.

It is time that our children received a more complete understanding of the sexuality, that covers both the physical and dangers, as well as its ethical, social, psychological, emotional, and spiritual dimensions. It is time that our public schools, who are already teaching about sexuality in their health courses, provide a fuller, more valued approach to sexuality. More open, more healthy, more honest.

That’s why a group of Religious Leaders, including myself, have signed onto an Open Letter to Religious Leaders about Sex Education. You can read a more beautifully formatted version here.


As religious leaders, we have a continuing commitment to the spiritual, emotional, and physical health of the nation’s young people. Now we are called to join in the public discussion about the nature of sexuality education for the country’s youth. Strong public health arguments support comprehensive sexuality education. Here we invite you to consider the religious foundations for supporting sexuality education—education that respects the whole person, honors the truth and diverse values, and promotes the highest ethical values in human relationships.


Religious traditions affirm that sexuality is a divinely bestowed blessing for expressing love and generating life, for mutual companionship and pleasure. It is also capable of misuse, leading to exploitation, abuse, and suffering. Sexuality, from a religious point of view, needs to be celebrated with joy, holiness, and integrity, but it also demands understanding, respect, and self-discipline. Our traditions affirm the goodness of creation, our bodies, and our sexuality; we are called to stewardship of these gifts.


Our religious ancestors created rites of passage to recognize the transition to sexual maturity and adulthood. God created us as sexual beings from birth to death; but it is in childhood and adolescence, that we begin to develop the sexual wisdom, values, and morality that will determine whether we will become sexually healthy adults. As religious leaders, we want young people to 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.


Religions have a venerable tradition supporting healing, health care, disease prevention, and health promotion. They also express commitment to the most marginalized, the most vulnerable, those most likely to be excluded. Sexuality education programs must benefit all young people regardless of income, class, ethnicity, and gender. Programs must also be inclusive of those who are heterosexual and those who are sexual minorities, those who are abstinent and those who have had sexual relationships, and those who have experienced brokenness and oppression about their sexuality.


Religions value education, including education about our sexuality. We have learned from our commitment to religious education that programs must be age-appropriate, accurate, and truthful, and have both immediate relevance and applicability for later life. Young people need help in order to develop their capacity for moral discernment and a freely informed conscience. Education that respects and empowers young people has more integrity than education based on incomplete information, fear, and shame. Programs that teach abstinence exclusively and withhold information about pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease prevention fail our young people.


Scriptural and theological commitment to telling the truth calls for full and honest education about sexual and reproductive health. Young people need to know “there is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing” but they also require the skills to make moral and healthy decisions about relationships for themselves now and in their future adult lives. They need help to develop the capacity for personal relationships that express love, justice, mutuality, commitment, consent, and pleasure. Our culture too often models sexuality without responsibility, and many adolescents are left on their own to struggle through conflicting sexual messages. It is with adult guidance and comprehensive information and education about sexuality—education that includes abstinence, contraception, and STD prevention—that young people will be able to make responsible decisions.


As religious leaders, we call on policy makers, school officials, and educators to provide comprehensive sexuality education that honors truth telling and the diversity of religious and moral values represented in the community. Such education:

* Emphasizes responsibility, rights, ethics, and justice.
* Affirms the dignity and worth of all persons.
* Teaches that sexuality includes physical, ethical, social, psychological, emotional, and spiritual dimensions.
* Complements the education provided by parents and faith communities.
* Publicly identifies the values that underline the program.
* Teaches that decisions about sexual behaviors should be based on moral and ethical values, as well as considerations of physical and emotional health.
* Affirms the goodness of sexuality while acknowledging its risks and dangers.
* Introduces with respect the differing sides of controversial sexual issues.


People of faith must speak out for comprehensive sexuality education. We know that there are people of good faith who differ with us on what young people need. We seek to reach out to those from whom we may be divided to seek what is best for our nation’s youth. We all must be truth seeking, courageous, and just in our efforts to provide all young people with the sexuality education they so urgently need.

* * *

The Open Letter was developed at a colloquium of theologians in 2002, sponsored by the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing and funded by Planned Parenthood of New York. Participants included Rev. Mark Bigelow, Congregational Church of Huntington, Long Island; Rev. Dr. John Buehrens, Unitarian Universalist Association; Rev. Dr. Ignacio Castuera, Pacific Palisades United Methodist Church; Rev. Steve Clapp, Christian Community; Rev. Dr. Marvin Ellison, Bangor Theological Seminary; Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell, Union of American Hebrew Congregations; Rev. Dr. Larry Greenfield, Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing; Debra W. Haffner, M.Div., Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing; Ann Hanson, Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ; Rev. Dr. Sheron Patterson, St. Paul United Methodist Church, Dallas; and Rev. Carlton Veazey, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.