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(Tribune file photo) Temple Har Shalom Rabbi Joshua Aaronson
Utah faith leaders sound off on sex education
Education » Diverse religions offer diverse views on whether the topic belongs in schools.
First Published Mar 23 2012 11:17 am • Last Updated Mar 23 2012 07:54 pm

Amid all the chirping and buzzing of late from politicians, parents, advocates and educators about the birds and the bees, there hasn’t been much chatter from at least one group: Utah’s religious leaders.

What do they think about sex education in schools? After all, many people’s opinions on the topic are wrapped up in their beliefs about God, Scripture and marriage.

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So — in the wake of the passage and veto of HB363, which would have required Utah schools to either drop sex ed or teach abstinence-only, avoiding mention of contraception — The Salt Lake Tribune spoke with a handful of faith leaders about whether public classrooms should teach kids about sex.


Evangelicals are a diverse group, sure to have a variety of opinions on sex ed in schools, said Greg Johnson, president of the Standing Together Ministries coalition of evangelical churches across the Wasatch Front.

But he said many evangelicals are likely to want schools to tread lightly.

"It would not be uncommon to think a good percentage of evangelicals would believe abstinence should be taught in school and morality should be taught in school," Johnson said, "but details of procreation and sex and intimacy should be taught in the environment of the home."

That includes discussions of contraception and the intricacies of sex.

Johnson, a supporter of HB363, said a concern among many evangelicals might be that schools attempt to teach sex in a values-neutral way, when evangelicals would rather their kids be taught within the context of "God’s design for sex and marriage and intimacy."

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Evangelicals believe sex should be reserved for marriage.

"Whenever we … assume it will be discussed by teachers rather than parents, we make a mistake," Johnson said. "I think society needs to hold our families and our parents to the standard that [home] is the place where it should be discussed. I think that is where it should be done, not with some stranger who may not necessarily have the same values that I do."


Scott Trotter, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, declined to comment on the issue.

But the Salt Lake City-based faith’s Handbook 2: Administering the Church speaks to the topic in its section of "Policies on Moral Issues."

"Parents have primary responsibility for the sex education of their children," the book says. "Teaching this subject honestly and plainly in the home will help young people avoid serious moral transgressions. To help parents teach this sensitive and important information, the church has published A Parent’s Guide.

"Where schools have undertaken sex education, parents should seek to ensure that the instructions given to their children are consistent with sound moral and ethical values."

According to that same handbook, "The Lord’s law of chastity is abstinence from sexual relations outside of lawful marriage and fidelity within marriage."

Members who break this law, the book adds, could lose their standing in the faith.

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