In 1981, Congress passed the Adolescent Family Life Act, also known as the "chastity law," which funded educational programs to "promote self-discipline and other prudent approaches" to adolescent sex. Grant applications to create such programs poured in, and the dollars poured out — to churches and religious conservatives nationwide.
A dozen years later, the U.S. Supreme Court held that funded programs must delete direct references to religion (for instance, the suggestion that students take Christ on a date as chaperone), and the granting process was reined in. But it was too late. Some of the biggest federal grant recipients, including Sex Respect and Teen-Aid, had already turned their curricula into robust for-profit businesses.
In 1996, Congress established a federal program to fund programs teaching abstinence-until-marriage exclusively. Approximately $100 million, including matching state funds, is spent annually on state programs that have as their "exclusive purpose, teaching the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity."
Ramifications are steep:
- Textbooks are censored. The school board in Franklin County, North Carolina, ordered three chapters literally sliced out of a ninth-grade health textbook because the material did not adhere to state law mandating abstinence-only education. The chapters covered AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, marriage and partnering, and contraception. (2000)
- In Belton, Missouri, a seventh grade health teacher was suspended when a parent complained that she had discussed "inappropriate" sexual matters in class. The teacher had answered a student's query about oral sex. (1998)
In 2005, Representative Henry Waxman requested a report on federally funded abstinence-only programs. During that fiscal year, Congress gave about $170 million to these programs. The report found that "over 80% of the abstinence-only curricula, used by over two-thirds of grantees in 2003, contained false, misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health." (For the full report download The Waxman Report.)
Today schools are blocking student access to sexual information in class, at the school library, and through the public library's Internet portals. They violate students' free speech rights by censoring student publications of articles referring to sexuality. In abstinence-only classes, instructors force-feed students religious ideology that condemns homosexuality, masturbation, abortion, and sometimes even contraception.
There are a number of First Amendment concerns with abstinence-only sexuality education.
- it’s censorship, when literally slicing out passages of health books
- it affronts the principle of church-state separation
- also silences speech about sexual orientation.
Links to Sex Education Information
- Advocates for Youth, www.advocatesforyouth.org, is "dedicated to creating programs and advocating for policies that help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their reproductive and sexual health. Advocates provides information, training, and strategic assistance to youth-serving organizations, policy makers, youth activists, and the media in the United States and the developing world."
- Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, www.GLSEN.org, is "the leading national organization fighting to end anti-gay bias in K-12 schools. It combats the harassment and discrimination leveled against students and school personnel by creating learning environments that affirm the inherent dignity of all students, and, in so doing, teaches students to respect and accept all of their classmates– regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression."
- NYCLU Teen Health Initiative, www.nyclu.org/thi, was founded to help New York State kids and teens obtain vital information about their rights to healthcare, including comprehensive reproductive healthcare.
- Planned Parenthood, for news articles, resources, and free advice and legal assistance about your right to public health information, visit this abstinence-only report by Planned Parentood at their website www.plannedparenthood.org.
- For Rep. Henry Waxman's 2005 Report: The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs download The Waxman Report.