After a Travis County Judge ruled the Texas Constitutional Amendment prohibiting the ...
Three bills aimed at reforming the way sex education is taught in Texas schools have ...
Secular Texas has begun Bill Watch for the 84th Legislative Session. The bills are ...
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has made the committee appointments for the Texas Senate, ...

LGBTQ Rights and Religious Privilege before Texas House this week

LGBTQ Rights and Religious Privilege before Texas House this week

at 11:31 am

There are three important bills going before the Texas House of Representatives this week. We encourage you to contact your representatives about these bills. Please visit Secular Texas to find out how to take action.

HB 71 Relating to the prosecution of the offense of indecency with a child.

Currently under Texas law, it is legal for minors to engage in sexual relationships with somebody within three years of their own age... as long as the person is of the opposite sex. This law makes it a criminal act for a homosexual minor to engage in a sexual relationship. HB 71, authored by Mary Gonzalez, would put an end to this unnecessary discrimination.

HB 3567 Relating to the rights of certain religious organizations and individuals relating to a marriage that violates a sincerely held religious belief.

This bill ostensibly gives churches the rights to refuse to participate in a marriage that contradicts their religious beliefs. However, the wording of the bill takes it far beyond that. This bill would allow any organization associated with a church, for example a charter school associated with a church, to refuse to not only participate in a wedding but to also refuse to acknowledge a marriage that contradicts their religious beliefs, for example, an employee who is divorced and remarried.

HB 4105 Relating to the issuance, enforcement, and recognition of marriage licenses and declarations of informal marriage.

This hate bill is meant to stop the legalization of marriage equality no matter the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States by making it illegal for any public funds to be used to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple in Texas.

No, Rep. Spitzer, Abstinence Education is not HIV Prevention

No, Rep. Spitzer, Abstinence Education is not HIV Prevention

at 1:26 pm

Yesterday the House of Representatives passed their version of the Texas budget for the next two years. Part of this budget proposal moves $3 million from HIV prevention programs to further fund abstinence education in Texas schools. In defending this budget change, Rep. Stuart Spitzer stated, “It may not be working well, but abstinence education is HIV prevention. They are essentially the same thing.” Rep. Spitzer is more correct than he may realize in the first part of that statement. Abstinence-until-marriage education is not only not working well in Texas, it has never been shown to be effective in changing the sexual behaviors of teens.

In his exhaustive review of sex education studies, Emerging Answers 2007, Dr. Douglas Kirby stated that “there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence, or reduces the number of sexual partners. In addition, there is strong evidence from multiple randomized trials demonstrating that some abstinence programs chosen for evaluation because they were believed to be promising actually had no impact on teen sexual behavior. That is, they did not delay the initiation of sex, increase the return to abstinence or decrease the number of sexual partners.” (Kirby 2007)

Another study looked at the difference in sexual activity rates and pregnancy rates before and after teens went through either an abstinence education course, a comprehensive course, or no sex education course. “Adolescents who received comprehensive sex education were significantly less likely to report teen pregnancy than those who received no formal sex education, whereas there was no significant effect of abstinence-only education.” (Kohler 2008)

Many proponents of abstinence education tout the successes of individual abstinence programs. However, when these programs have been studied, they have not been shown to be effective at changing teen sexual behaviour. And the few studies that abstinence proponents cite are not of abstinence-until-marriage programs, such as that taught here in Texas, but of more comprehensive programs that talk about abstinence, but just as one method of safe sexual activity, while also teaching about contraception and sexual health. There have been, as far as Secular Texas can find, no peer reviewed studies showing that abstinence-until-marriage sex education is effective in reducing teen sexual behavior or teen pregnancies.

To bring this all closer to home, in the twenty years that Texas has spent trying to convince our teens to remain abstinent until they are married, Texas has consistently ranked in the top 10 states for teen sexual activity (CDC, 1993 - 2014), the top 5 states for teen pregnancy rate (Kost, 2013), the highest rate in the nation for repeat teen pregnancies (CDC 2013), and among the bottom 5 states for condom use by sexually active teens (CDC, 1993 - 2014). In short, despite all the efforts of abstinence-until-marriage sex education, Texas has some of the most dangerous sexual behavior among teens in the entire nation.

Texas actually conducted a study of our own abstinence-until-marriage programs in 2004, performed by Texas A&M University. This study found “the number of adolescents who had had sexual intercourse did not change or increased after they had received abstinence only sex education.” Looking at the actual numbers, the increase is quite dramatic. After going through the abstinence-until-marriage course, the number of students having engaged in sexual activities had increased 20% among girls and a shocking 62% among boys (Hopkins, 2005). Abstinence-until-marriage sex education is not only “not working well” in Texas, it isn’t working at all.

Coming back to the last part of Rep. Spitzer’s comment, that abstinence education is essentially HIV prevention, this cannot be further from the truth. As shown here, according to all peer-reviewed research on the subject, abstinence education is essentially doing nothing at all.

In Dr. Kirby’s 2008 comparison of abstinence education and comprehensive sex education for HIV/AIDS prevention, he found, “Rigorous evaluations using large experimental designs have assessed multiple abstinence programs, including at least three abstinence-until-marriage programs, and have found that these curricula have no overall impact on adolescents’ delay in initiation of sex, age at initiation of sex, return to abstinence, number of sexual partners, or condom or contraceptive use.” He goes on to conclude about abstinence education, “Taken as a whole, this evidence certainly does not justify the widespread replication of abstinence sex education programs.” As to comprehensive sex education programs he concludes, “In contrast, the results for comprehensive programs are very encouraging, both in increasing abstinence and in improving other sexual behaviors among youth. Nearly half of the 48 comprehensive programs delayed adolescents’ initiation of sex, one fourth reduced the frequency of sex, and nearly half reduced the number of sexual partners. In addition, nearly half of the comprehensive programs increased condom or contraceptive use and three fifths reduced various measures of sexual risk behavior. Thus, overall, more than two thirds of the 48 comprehensive programs had a positive effect on one or more sexual behaviors and two fifths had a positive impact on two or more sexual behaviors among youth.” (Kirby 2008)

The methods for reducing teen sexual activities and dangerous sexual behaviors are known to us, and they are absolutely not abstinence-until-marriage education. Comprehensive sex education programs have been shown to reduce teen sexual activity whereas abstinence education simply does not. Comprehensive sex education also provides vital information and encouragement regarding STI prevention, testing and medical treatment, whereas abstinence education -- especially in Texas -- is more likely to leave teens so fearful of STIs that they do not seek medical treatment.

Rep. Spitzer’s ideological attack on HIV prevention is not only irresponsible, but is in complete disregard for the reality of the world in which we live. State policy must be based on known realities, no matter how tough to admit or how far from our ideological comfort zones.

[bibliography]

Some Common Myths About Sex Education Reform

Some Common Myths About Sex Education Reform

at 8:27 am

Myth: Texas parents prefer abstinence-until-marriage sex education.

While it might be true that the loudest Texans, and those most offended by everything prefer abstinence-until-marriage to be taught in public schools, but that just doesn't hold true for the entire Texas population. In a 2011 survey of Texas parents, 66% stated they prefer an abstinence-plus approach to sex education taught in public schools over an abstinence-until-marriage approach ‒ that is, a program that emphasizes abstinence but also provides medically accurate information on human sexuality and contraception. That 66% includes widespread support among Texans of all political affiliations, including 65% of Republicans, 70% of Democrats and 61% of Independents. 64% of parents want this education to start in middle school. (Tortolero, 2011)

Myth: Teaching about contraception or talking frankly about sex only encourages our teens to be sexually reckless.

This is a common and reasonable concern. Thankfully, however, it is one that does not prove out in reality. In probably the most extensive study of sex education conducted to date, it was found that “no comprehensive program [that discusses the use of contraception] hastened the initiation of sex or increased the frequency of sex, results that many people fear. Emphasizing both abstinence and protection for those who do have sex is a realistic, effective approach that does not appear to confuse young people.” (Kirby, 2007)

In fact, quite the opposite. While abstinence-until-marriage programs were found to have no positive effect on teen sexual behavior, “Two-thirds of the 48 comprehensive programs that supported both abstinence and the use of condoms and contraceptives for sexually active teens had positive behavioral effects. Specifically, over 40 percent of the programs delayed the initiation of sex, reduced the number of sexual partners, and increased condom or contraceptive use; almost 30 percent reduced the frequency of sex (including a return to abstinence); and more than 60 percent reduced unprotected sex. Furthermore, nearly 40 percent of the programs had positive effects on more than one of these behaviors. For example, some programs both delayed the initiation of sex and increased condom or other contraceptive use.” These are results that have never been achieved by any abstinence-until-marriage sex education curriculum (Kirby, 2007).

In the end, if parents are concerned about teens making reckless and dangerous decisions about sex, abstinence-plus programs have been shown again and again to be effective at reducing sexual activity, and dangerous sexual activity, which no abstinence-until-marriage program has been shown to do.

[Bibliography]

 

A Short Primer on Sex Education in Texas

A Short Primer on Sex Education in Texas

at 5:50 pm

2015 marks 20 years since Texas has required an abstinence-until-marriage approach to sex education in our public schools, teaching our teens to just say no to sex. For these 20 years Texas has consistently ranked in the top 10 states for teen sexual activity (CDC, 1993 - 2014), the top 5 states for highest teen pregnancy rate (Kost, 2013), the highest rate in the nation for repeat teen pregnancies (CDC 2013), and among the bottom 5 states for condom use by sexually active teens (CDC, 1993 - 2014). In short, despite all the efforts of abstinence-until-marriage sex education, Texas has some of the most dangerous sexual behavior among teens in the entire nation.

While teen pregnancy rates have dropped over the last 25 years (Kost, 2013), the rate of decrease that has been seen in Texas is among the worst in the nation, with 39 states having greater rates of improvement than Texas (NCPTUP, 2013). In fact, when states are compared by the level of dedication to abstinence in their laws and policies, states with strong abstinence-until-marriage laws have the highest rates of teen pregnancy and the lowest levels of improvements in teen pregnancy rates over the past 25 years (Stanger-Hall 2011).

In a study on the causes of this declining rate of teen pregnancies in the United States, the findings show that “14% of the change observed among 15- to 19-year-olds was attributable to a decrease in the percentage of sexually active young women and that 86% was attributable to changes in contraceptive method use” (Santelli, 2007). In fact, when teen sexual activity rates (CDC, 1993 - 2014) are compared with teen pregnancy rates (Kost, 2013), pregnancy rates go down while teen sexual activity rates remain unchanged, showing that our abstinence-until-marriage sex education cannot be responsible for any reductions in the teen pregnancy rate in Texas.

Peer-reviewed studies over the past decade have found that abstinence-plus sex education programs show significant decreases in sexual activity and pregnancy rates among teens (Kirby, 2007). Not one peer-reviewed study of abstinence-until-marriage sex education, such as those prescribed by Texas law, has shown a reduction in teen pregnancy rates or teen sexual activity rates (Kirby, 2007). Many abstinence-until-marriage advocates list studies that show the positive effects of abstinence sex education, but all studies with positive results are actually studies of abstinence-plus sex education, that is, programs that emphasize abstinence but also provide medically accurate information on human sexuality and contraception ‒ which is exactly what the sex education reform bills proposed this session would allow.

Texas actually conducted a study of our own abstinence-until-marriage programs in 2004, performed by Texas A&M University. This study found “the number of adolescents who had had sexual intercourse did not change or increased after they had received abstinence only sex education.” Looking at the numbers, the increase is dramatic. After going through the abstinence-until-marriage course, there was a 20% increase among girls and 62% increase among boys having engaged in sexual activity (Hopkins, 2005). This is the opposite of what the programs claim to be accomplishing.

[Bibliography]

About TxTW

Texas Theocracy Watch is a service of Secular Texas.

With researchers and observers in Austin, Texas Theocracy Watch reports and comments on religion creeping into our state and local governments and the State Board of Education. It is our goal to keep the secular community up to date on news related to secular government in Texas and around the nation, as other states are often used as testing grounds for religious legislation. In addition, Texas Theocracy Watch attempts to bring context and a rational, sober analysis to the current events of Texas politics, as relate to our goals.

About Secular Texas

Secular Texas is an ad hoc group of citizens advocating for the concerns of the secular community of Texas. We seek a rational state government that enacts policy based on scientific realities. Secular Texas also addresses any attempt to use State or Local government resources or power to endorse religion, or provide privilege to religious institutions in Texas.

Connet With Us

    

Upcoming Events