To the right is an actual worksheet used in a Texas public school district as part of an abstinence-only education program. (Click to enlarge)
While the the religious handout isn't a state-wide standard, it's far from alone. According to the Wiley and Wilson study I blogged about yesterday, 9.5% of Texas public school districts are using religion to teach sexual education.
The study is the largest ever done on the way abstinence-only programs are actually implemented. It was a broad examination of various abstinence-only curricula in Texas, the state that receives the more federal money for abstinence-only than any other state. This is part 2 of my week-long series unpacking this study on Bilerico. Part 1 was on homophobia in abstinence-only education.
More on religion in public schools, taught with federal tax money, often coming from political Religious Right organizations like Focus on the Family, after the jump.
According to Wiley and Wilson, all references to religion in sex ed programs are Christian, and mostly fundamentalist Protestant to boot. This isn't much of a surprise, considering that Christians dominate all other faiths when it comes to expression in the public sphere, no matter how much they pretend to be oppressed. And the biggest advocate for abstinence-only in schools is the Religious Right.
Which makes sense, considering that they prepare the materials used in many of these programs. True Love Waits and Focus on the Family send/sell explicitly religious material to more than a handful of Texas school districts, referencing "God's will" and engaging in long discussions of Scripture.
Not only is this illegal, teaching religion in public schools doesn't do anything to help minority religion students. (Although if they ignore this garbage they're probably better off than their Christian counterparts.) But it also only makes it harder these students to feel comfortable in school. What are they supposed to think when a teacher is handing out a worksheet calling them "lost"?
But religion in public schools isn't about making students better people (judging from these programs) or making them more comfortable. It's about letting everyone know, without ambiguity, who's in charge and who's not.. It gives the Christian students the very mistaken impression that they should control everything around them, that they in fact are oppressed by even the appearance of non-Christianity around them, which they'll carry into adulthood. And it teaches minority religion students to keep quiet about their faiths or lack-of-faiths and sit on the sidelines.
One abstinence-only program makes no bones about being Christian:
Materials used by this program read more like Sunday school lessons than a course on sexuality education. Hardly a page can be found that does not include multiple references to Bible verses, invocation of Christian principles, even attempts to proselytize students with the Christian plan of salvation.
The "Resources" portion of the Wonderful Days Web site (which the program touts as a key component of student instructional materials) gives the following advice to young people:
We can be born again of The Almighty Himself. We then take on His character with all of its resultant self-control, benefits, and great responsibility. You will be amazed when the "sperm" of His Spirit connects with the "ovum/egg" of your spirit and you become a "new person" with His character. How? Read about it in your Bible:
John 1:12: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of Yahweh, even to those who believe in His name.
Romans 3:23: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of Yahweh.
Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of Yahweh is eternal life in Messiah Yahshua our Lord.
John 3:16: For Yahweh so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Romans 10:9-10: that if you confess with your mouth Yahshua as Lord, and believe in your heart that Yahweh raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
Wait... the "sperm of His Spirit" and the "ovum/egg" of my spirit connect to give me self-control? Ummmmmmm... sounds like that contradicts the Establishment Clause for all the right reasons.
This wasn't the only program that quoted Scripture right at teens to get them to keep their genitals in their pants. Other programs were infused with religion, some quoting all sorts of passages from the Bible, one even having a Q & A section about what the Bible says about sex.
Other schools just used materials developed by national Religious Right organizations, including Focus on the Family and True Love Waits:
Some of the religious materials that districts provided in response to our request are produced by large, national abstinence-only programs, religious advocacy organizations
or conservative Christian denominations. The Why kNOw? curriculum (used in 20 Texas school districts), for instance, contains numerous references to religion and religious organizations, even quoting a scriptural passage from the New Testament (1 Corinthians 13:4).
We also discovered that 18 districts around the state utilize videos or curricular
materials produced or distributed by the conservative Christian advocacy group Focus on the Family, known for its involvement in "culture war" political issues and its Christian child-rearing materials.Districts sometimes refer students to resources produced by specific Christian denominations, as in Elkhart ISD, where students are Finding 6: Some Texas classrooms mix religious instruction and Bible study into sexuality education programs. this finding authored by Ryan Valentine, TFNEF deputy director
40 Sexuality Education in Texas Public Schools referred to the Web site www.truelovewaits.com.
I'm not at all surprised that Focus on the Family is getting money and exposure out of this, considering how hard they lobby for abstinence-only education. What's the point of advocating for junk science to be taught in schools if you can't make a few bucks off it?
That's what a lot of people are apparently thinking when it comes to abstinence-only in Texas. While lots of schools don't use explicitly religious teaching materials, they get guest speakers who speak from a religious perspective. While many local clergy come to schools to talk about sexuality, here are a few of the bigger names on the circuit:
- Jason Evert - "full-time apologist* with Catholic Answers, the nation's largest lay-run apostolate for apologetics and evangelization."207 (Lindsay, Bay City, Alvin and Flour Bluff ISDs)
- Terri McLaughlin - education coordinator for the faith-based anti-abortion lobbying group Texans for Life208 (Boles ISD)
- Lyndy Phillips - identified by district as a Christian motivational speaker; ordained minister and served over 13 years as a full-time youth and associate pastor.209 (Channing ISD)
- David Crain - Christian musician and speaker: "As a speaker, David's message is always delivered in a way that entertains while drawing the listener into a deeper relationship with Christ."210 (Grape Creek ISD)
I sure hope they're all having a grand ol' time there in the Lone Star State making money while spreading the Gospel. Because Texas has the third-highest teen pregnancy rate - 1 in 11 teens can expect to be or have been pregnant by age 18. The state also has "a population of young people who rate well above national averages on virtually every published statistic involving sexual risk-taking behaviors."
But what's the fun of letting a few facts like that ruin the party?
Read more on real abstinence-only programs: