How do we communicate to our children the challenges of dealing with their own sexuality and the dangers – physical, emotional, spiritual – of becoming sexually active before they are older? Abstinence only programs, advocated by some, provide incomplete information.
I recently signed onto a Clergy Statement on Public Health and Ethical Concerns with Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs and the Need for Comprehensive Sexuality Education. The letter was submitted to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. A central contention of our statement, sponsored by the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing, is:
Young people need to know that “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 the future. We call on you to support comprehensive sexuality education programs that honor the diversity of religious and moral values in the community. Such education teaches that decisions about sexual behaviors should be based on moral and ethical values, as well as considerations of physical and emotional health. It affirms the goodness of sexuality while acknowledging its risk, consequences and dangers, and it introduces with respect the differing sides of controversial issues. It includes information about abstinence, contraception, and STD prevention.
Note the statement that we should teach about abstinence, contraception and STD prevention, as well as a positive valued approach to thinking about sexuality.