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, ...

Sex Education in Texas: A Policy of Fear

Sex Education in Texas: A Policy of Fear

at 8:41 pm

The Texas Legislature has required that all sex education in Texas teach abstinence as the only acceptable approach to sexual activity until marriage (TLO 1995). That is if the school district teaches sex education at all. In 2009 the Texas Board of Education voted to remove entirely the requirement for health education in Texas schools, including sex education. Actual sex education curriculum is left up to each individual school district where advisory boards, appointed by local school districts, decide what sex education will be offered in local schools (TLO 1995).

There is a common perception in Texas that exclusively promoting the 'morality' of delaying sex until marriage will be effective in reducing teen sexual activity. It is also believed that even mentioning sex to teenagers is enough to get them so “hot and bothered” that they won't be able to control themselves. This idea was demonstrated during the 83rd Texas Legislature by Texas Rep. Steve Toth (R-Woodlands). During a discussion on sex education Toth shared a story: “My wife worked at a home for unwed moms, and one of the little kids that was born, his name is David. David came about as a result of his mom and dad, who were just 16 at the time, going to a Planned Parenthood deal where they taught them how to use contraceptives. They were not sexually active at that point. They got into the car, and they were so hot and bothered from this deal, he couldn't even get the condom on.” Besides the fact that the story is hearsay, originally sourced to some teenagers who needed to scapegoat the blame for their 'immoral' actions, this evidence is anecdotal – one story. Without wider supporting evidence, it is nothing more than an attempt at emotional manipulation.

This is an understandable fear. But this is a question that we can ask, and answer, through scientific inquiry. "Does teaching our youth the truth about sex and contraception increase their likelihood of sexual activity?" The conclusion reached by studies looking at this question: No (Kohler PK). Teaching teenagers about sex does not increase the likelihood of sexual activity. Quite the opposite. It is the most successful method of delaying sexual activity among teens available to us (Kirby 2007). A comprehensive approach to sex education, even one that emphasizes abstinence, but teaches medically accurate information about the human body, sexuality and safe sex is the only widespread effective way at reducing dangerous sexual behavior among teens. Not only does comprehensive sex education have better results, it gives our youth the ability to make well informed decisions for their lives, instead of being ruled by their hormones in ignorance.

Don't tell our brave Governor Perry, who has claimed that “abstinence works,” without being able to offer any proof, but abstinence-based sex education is just as effective at reducing sexual activity in students as not teaching sex education at all (Stanger-Hall 2011). There is no peer-reviewed, replicated research that supports the effectiveness of abstinence-based sex education, with all the evidence pointing in the opposite direction. In fact, after the largest federal push for abstinence-based sex education in 2006, teen pregnancy rates suffered their first increase in the United States in over 20 years (CDC 2008).

This is not a partisan issue with a simple, honest disagreement about how best to accomplish a common goal. This is an actual, literal failure in public policy that needs to be addressed with a sober analysis of relevant facts.

Bibliography

A comprehensive review of Sex Education in Texas.

A Call for Equal Treatment

A Call for Equal Treatment

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Texas Constitution, Article 1. Bill of Rights, Sec. 3 EQUAL RIGHTS
“All free men, when they form a social compact, have equal rights, and no man, or set of men, is entitled to exclusive separate public emoluments, or privileges, but in consideration of public services.”

 

The language is a bit old-fashioned, but this clause of the Texas Constitution’s Bill of Rights guarantees that all Texans, without exception, be treated equally under law ‒ a right also guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. This simple and enlightened idea is the basis for our free society, and is the backbone of most the issues on which Secular Texas takes a stand.

When Texans of any religious creed demand that our shared government enforce their dogmas, their beliefs or their morals through the power of the law, they demand special privilege over all Texans. When the legislature enacts laws to enforce personal religious beliefs, it imposes on the religious and civil rights of all Texans, giving special privilege to one group, and violates this fundamental right guaranteed by both the Texas and United States Constitutions.

When we enforce religious beliefs through law, we violate the rights of people of other faiths ‒ or those of no faith ‒ forcing them to live out the beliefs of others in violation of their own personal conscience. It also violates the rights of people who agree with the religiously based law, by forcing them to follow this tenet of their faith not as a person free to make their own moral and religious decisions, but under threat of law.

When government stays out of the business of enforcing religious beliefs through law, all citizens are protected to live according to their personal religious beliefs or conscience as they see fit. With this view, government is not a moral force, but instead a coming together of the people to lay out the infrastructure for their society. And there may be no more important piece of infrastructure for a free society than guaranteeing that all people are treated equally under the law.

“The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship…”
James Madison, while introducing the Bill of Rights to Congress.

 

“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; ... nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Constitution of the United States, 14th Amendment, Section 1.

Gov. Abbott says he will not end his war on marriage

Gov. Abbott says he will not end his war on marriage

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Governor Greg Abbott had the -- I don’t want to call it respect, um -- well, one of his employees responded to at least one Secular Texan that sent him a letter after our February 21st Call-To-Action asking the governor and Attorney General Ken Paxton to end their war on marriage. It’s short:

“While [Gov. Abbott] believes there are good and decent people on both sides of this issue, Governor Abbott believes in traditional marriage, a belief he shares with the majority of Texans. The governor will continue to support and defend Article 1, Section 32 of the Texas Constitution, which states that marriage consists ‘only of the union of one man and one woman’ and was approved by nearly three quarters of Texas voters in 2005.”

Empty platitudes aside…

That 2005 election he is referring to there had a turnout of 13.82% of eligible Texans. That means somewhere around 10% of Texans voted in support of the constitutional amendment defining marriage as “only of the union of one man and one woman.” Not exactly inspiring figures.

And, most importantly, while we completely support the governor’s right to his own personal beliefs, Gov. Abbott’s personal beliefs were never in question here. We are completely aware of them. What is in question is his constitutional obligation, one that he agreed to take upon himself under oath, to uphold the Texas Constitution, including its Bill of Rights, and the Constitution of the United States. Section 3 of the Texas Bill of Rights along with the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States both guarantee that all citizens will be treated equally under the law, with no special privileges given to any person or group over another group.

Maybe the governor got confused and he thought the letter to him was a personal letter, to him as a private citizen. But, you know what, I kind of doubt it. I am pretty sure this is a simple matter of Gov. Abbott not understanding the difference between our shared public government and his god.

So, no, Mr. Governor. That is not good enough. We didn’t ask why you do not personally support the equal treatment of all Texans under the law. We asked why you refuse to stand up to fulfill your duty as the governor of all Texans -- whether gay or straight, Baptist of Episcopalians, religious or non-religious -- to ensure that all Texans are treated equally under the law. I want to hear you get up in front of all Texans and publicly state why you refuse to uphold your duty as governor of our state -- which just so happens not to be the Theocratic Dictatorship of Greg-Abbott-istan.

See Secular Texas’ full response to Governor Abbott.

Abbott & Paxton: End Your War on Marriage Equality

Abbott & Paxton: End Your War on Marriage Equality

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The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Section 3 of our Texas Constitution’s Bill of Rights both guarantee that all citizens are to be treated as equals under the law. This simple and elegant idea is a cornerstone of our free society and must be protected to ensure our personal freedoms.

While Secular Texas is a strong supporter of the rights of individuals to freedom of conscience and freedom of worship, those freedoms do not extend to the point of infringing on the Constitutionally guaranteed equal treatment of others under the law. All Texans are free to hold their own personal view of what defines a marriage. However, if the Texas government is to involve itself in marriage, as a legal institution, it must do so within the confines that the United States Constitution and the Texas Bill of Rights allows, treating all Texans as equals and extending equal protections to all under the law.

Broadening the legal definition of marriage does nothing to infringe on the rights of Texans to worship or believe as they see fit, nor their right to define marriage according to their personal beliefs. Our shared state government is not a tool to be used, not even by a majority of Texans, to deny equal protections and equal treatment under the law to our fellow citizens.

Secular Texas calls on Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton to end their war on the equal treatment of LGBTQ Texans under the law and uphold the promises of both the Texas Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States.

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.

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