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Utah faith leaders sound off on sex education
Education » Diverse religions offer diverse views on whether the topic belongs in schools.


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Muslims

The Islamic view on sex ed in schools is simple: It shouldn’t be done, said Imam Muhammed Mehtar, of the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake.

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"There’s a thing that we say, ‘Out of sight, out of mind,’ " Mehtar said. "The more we involve ourselves in such adulterated topics, we are going to contribute to the curiosity of a child. So we first talk about it, then the child wants to experiment with what’s being talked about."

It’s not that Muslims are against sex education, he said, but they generally believe it shouldn’t be taught until a person is ready to marry. Therefore, he said, there’s no reason to teach sex education to minors.

"If you cannot get married, why must you talk about something married people should be indulging themselves in?"

Episcopalians

"A resounding yes" is the answer most members of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church would likely give to the question of whether public schools should offer sex ed, said Father Emil Belsky, rector of the Salt Lake City church.

"To not provide sex education," Belsky said, "is to leave our young people with nothing but what they’ve learned on the Internet and from one another."

He said many parents are uncomfortable discussing sex with their children. The opportunity to hear a reasonable explanation of human reproduction from a respected adult, he said, is "almost an absolute must in today’s society."


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Belsky said most Episcopalians he knows would likely be in favor of those lessons including information on contraception as well as a definition of homosexuality. He said the Episcopal Church tends to be inclusive when it comes to such issues.

"When someone is of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender] persuasion, it’s easy to malign them as ‘the other’ when you don’t know about them and you have no actual relationship with them."

Belsky said most Episcopalians would likely argue abstinence before marriage should be an option. Others would maintain that premarital sex and/or living together before marriage are also reasonable.

When he works with couples before their marriages, Belsky doesn’t tell them they shouldn’t have premarital sex. He said that’s a personal decision for them to make.

"It’s a rarity in this day and age, in working with young couples, if they say that they are both virgins."

Belsky was thrilled the governor vetoed HB363.

Jews

Many progressive Jews, such as those at Park City’s Temple Har Shalom, would likely also support sex ed in schools in addition to in the home and/or at religious institutions, said the synagogue’s Rabbi Joshua Aaronson.

"I certainly don’t believe the school should be the final word or the only place in which these issues are broached," Aaronson said, "but I think the school has a role to play, especially considering there may be homes in which these issues don’t get taught and don’t get discussed, and then all of us are responsible for the social consequences of teenage pregnancy."

In fact, he said the Reform synagogue teaches a curriculum to students in its upper grades that includes information about intimate relationships, contraception and STDs within the context of Jewish values. They’re told that sex should be within the context of a "consensual, caring, committed relationship between two mature adults" but not necessarily that they must wait until marriage. It’s an approach that, he said, acknowledges that in progressive Jewish communities, people often don’t get married until after college and, in many cases, even later.

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