Religious Leaders and Sexuality Education

Religious leaders advocate for comprehensive sexuality education because of theological, moral, and ethical commitments.

Clergy members have a unique role in supporting comprehensive sexuality education in public schools. The influence and authority religious leaders hold in communities allow them to speak from the theological foundation of respect for human dignity and wholeness. Many religious traditions understand sexuality as a gift and, as such, seek to provide the moral and ethical frameworks for responsible sexual relationships that lead to the flourishing of every human being. We believe that “all persons, including adolescents, have the right and responsibility to lead lives that express love, justice, mutuality, commitment, consent, and pleasure. Religious Institute, The Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Adolescent Sexuality, 2002.

Many faith communities know by experience, and numerous studies show, that young people tend to delay mature sexual activity when they receive sexuality education that focuses on responsible decision-making and mutual respect in relationships. Kirby , Douglas B. “The Impact of Abstinence and Comprehensive Sex and STD/HIV Education Programs on Adolescent Sexual Behavior,” Sexuality Research and Social Policy: Journal of NSRC, September 2008, 5(3):18–27. In addition, medically accurate, comprehensive sexuality education provides youth potentially life-saving information about their bodies and the realities of sexual involvement.

Young people seek moral guidance that is relevant to their lives. Acting as models, mentors, and advocates, religious leaders are ambassadors for faith communities that value the lives of youth. All young people deserve reliable information and caring guidance about sexuality that enable them to engage in emotionally and physically healthy relationships. Sexuality education that is factually inaccurate, ignores the realities of adolescent life, and withholds information puts young people at unnecessary risk for disease and unintended pregnancy and, above all, endangers their lives. This is morally wrong.

Many faith traditions support and celebrate the ability of young people to make decisions about their personal lives that are based on contemplation, information, and religious values. Religious leaders who are committed to providing youth the information and guidance they need to thrive are called to help educate the larger community about comprehensive sexuality education and its goals.