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Liberal religious groups lobby for comprehensive sex education

Teens join UUA-UCC effort promoting end to abstinence-only sex education.
By Jane Greer

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Thirty-five members of Unitarian Universalist and United Church of Christ congregations, ranging in age from 14 to 58, lobbied their congressional representatives Monday, March 26, to support passage of a bill that would provide more comprehensive sexuality education to young people. The Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act would give states funding for sex education programs that provide medically accurate, non-religious, and age-appropriate information about both abstinence and contraception. The Bush administration currently supports abstinence-only sex education programs.

The lobby day is part of a three-day Sexual Advocacy Education Training conference organized by the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, the United Church of Christ, and Advocates for Youth, an organization lobbying for programs and policies enabling youth to make informed decisions about their reproductive and sexual health. Conference participants, hailing from 13 states, learned advocacy skills that they can use at home with school boards, state legislators, and congressional representatives, said Rob Keithan, director of the UUA’s Washington Office for Advocacy.

Comprehensive sexuality education, advocates believe, would reduce the U.S. rates of teen pregnancy and contraction of sexually transmitted diseases. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit corporation for reproductive health research, U.S. teen birth rates far exceed those of most developed countries, as do the number of cases of sexually transmitted diseases.

UUA President William G. Sinkford and James Wagoner, head of Advocates for Youth, accompanied groups to visit the offices of Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Senator John Kerry (D-MA), where they met with staff. “When you have local constituents and national leaders, it makes for a powerful visit,” Keithan said.

On the same day, UUs and members of the UCC were invited to conduct a long-distance lobby by emailing and calling their representatives, asking them to support passage of the bill.

The REAL Act was first introduced in 2001 where it gained little traction in a Republican-led Congress. It was reintroduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Christopher Shays (R-CT) on March 22.

The UUA has long been committed to comprehensive sexuality education and developed the Our Whole Lives lifespan sexuality education curricula along with the United Church of Christ.

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