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Sexuality education, standing on the side of love

It's time to put our energy into a sustained fight for comprehensive sexuality education.
By William G. Sinkford
Fall 2006 8.15.06

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Unitarian Universalists stand on the side of love, not on the side of fear and shame. But fear and shame, and the injustice and hurt they inevitably cause, are rampant in our culture and getting worse, especially when it comes to matters of human sexuality—marriage equality, a woman’s right to choose, access to contraceptives, aids, and sexuality education.

As individuals, as congregations, and through this Association we have long brought our liberal religious voice to the struggle to end the injustices that flow from this fear and shame, which is fueled unceasingly by the religious right. While we and our allies have gained ground in some areas, we have lost ground in others. Tragically, the assault is relentless.

So it’s time to increase the relentlessness from the side of love. As I told the General Assembly in June, the UUA now has the capacity to advance multiple issues at the same time.

Our leadership in the fight for marriage equality has been sustained and effective. Now it is time to put our energy into a sustained and effective fight for comprehensive sexuality education as well. You can be sure that I’ll be giving this more of my attention, building on a wonderful initiative spearheaded by Unitarian Universalist youth and young adults.

The initiative’s seed was planted in 2004 when UUA staff from the Youth Office, Young Adult and Campus Ministry Office, and Washington Office for Advocacy picked the topic as an ongoing advocacy project because it can make such a difference in the lives of the young. What has happened since is remarkable, and gaining momentum.

In 2005 about thirty UU youth and young adults gathered in Washington, D.C., for a training conducted by UUA staff and experts from a partner organization, Advocates for Youth. They learned about how to communicate about sexuality education in liberal religious terms and how to lobby effectively—including a lobbying trip to Capitol Hill to gain experience they can take home. The United Church of Christ joined with the UUA’s initiative and the 2006 training group grew to thirty-five. The 2007 training is being planned now. If you’d like to know more, go to the Washington office website at www.uua.org/uuawo.

Rob Keithan of our Washington office tells me that the young participants come out greatly energized, knowing they have found an important way to put their faith into action. They know that by adding their voices to a small but growing chorus promoting comprehensive sexuality education as an antidote to the religious right’s toxic abstinence-only-until-marriage “sex” education.

This truly is a religious calling. We all come into this world as expressions of the great creative force that shapes the universe, the force that many call God. Theologically, UUs see sexuality as one of God’s greatest gifts. We express our sexuality best when we’re ethically and morally grounded, so responsible sexuality education is about much more than just biology and rules: It is about values, including self-worth, sexual health, responsibility, justice and inclusivity, and communication.

This is the approach of the Our Whole Lives curriculum the UUA published in 1999 in partnership with the United Church of Christ and with funding from the Ford Foundation. Owl, as it is fondly known, is taught extensively in UU and UCC congregations as well as in some congregations in other denominations and in some secular settings.

Of all that it teaches, nothing is more fundamental than what it means to stand on the side of love. The side of love needs all the help we can give it, so, young or old, let us be relentless together.

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