The Journal of the Unitarian Universalist Association

Why Should Churches Do Sex Ed?
By Cynthia Breen
Sidebar to “From Liberation to Health” by Dan Kennedy

September/October 1999

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(from a 1999 GA address by the Rev. Cynthia Breen, director of the UUA Department of Religious Education)

Why do so many congregations view sexuality education as part of their mission? For a variety of reasons. Let me share some of them with you here.

• First, congregations recognize that sexuality education is too important to ignore. I don’t need to tell you that popular culture doesn’t always show the values that we would like our children to learn! One example: a survey of 1,351 randomly selected television shows by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation found that over the course of one week, 56 percent of all tv programs, and 67 percent of prime time programs, contained sexual content, yet only one in ten such shows mentioned contraception, safe sex, or the possibility of delaying sexual activity.

• Second, sexuality education in secular settings, like schools, doesn’t necessarily support our values. For example, a study of secondary school health educators found that only 46 percent teach about sexual orientation at all, and that 91 percent of those devote less than two class periods to the topic. Thirty-three percent even felt that gay and lesbian rights are a threat to the American family and its values. Those views should not be the primary ones our children hear.

• Third, sexuality education helps prevent HIV and AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases, and unplanned pregnancies. It’s something concrete we can do to protect our interdependent web.

• A fourth reason that churches undertake sexuality education is that it gives us a place to put our values into practice. Participants can learn to develop and articulate their religious and sexual values and to make responsible, healthy decisions based on those values. Learning this in the context of religious community makes sense.

• Fifth, sexuality education, done correctly, supports families. We know that during and after sexuality education, parent-child communication rises. Our Whole Lives creates a partnership between the family and the church through parent orientation and parent education programs. It helps UU parents fulfill their role as the primary educators of their children on sexuality issues.

• Sixth, sexuality itself is religious. Sexuality is about values, respect, emotions, and justice. Sexuality is sacred, part of the miracle of creation. This is why we do sexuality education in church: because sexuality is sacred, and sexuality education is ministry.

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