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Teaching About Homosexuality In North American Schools.

A Maryland Sex-ed Course
And A Resultant Court Case:

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Overview:

During 2004-NOV, the Montgomery County Board of Education in Montgomery County, MD approved a "Revised Curriculum" for use in its Grade 8 and Grade 10 sex-ed classes.  The course was intended to be initially evaluated during 2005-MAY in six of its schools -- three middle and three high schools. 

The Baptist Press, a publication of the Southern Baptist Convention -- a fundamentalist Christian denomination -- criticized the program. They reported that:

"The curriculum ... claims that Jesus 'said absolutely nothing at all about homosexuality' and that being homosexual is similar to being left-handed. It notes that some Baptist churches once defended racial segregation, implying that conservative Baptists today are on the wrong side of history. It also says that future generations likely will view today's traditional beliefs on homosexuality with 'astonishment' and that 'religion has often been misused to justify hatred and oppression'."

Christian theologians hold opposing opinions about whether Jesus commented on homosexuality. However, there are two passages in the Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. New Testament) where Jesus' words and actions might be interpreted as taking a positive attitude towards persons with a homosexual orientation:

  • In Matthew 5:22, Jesus used the Greek word "Raca" which is a term that was sometimes referred negatively to homosexuals. Jesus said that anyone who uses "Raca" to refer to a person is in danger of ending up in Hell.

  • In Matthew 8:5-13, Jesus cured a Roman centurion's "pais." This is a Greek word that has been normally translated "servant" or "serving boy" or "young servant" in English translations of the Bible. However, "pais" in this situation contains the suggestion of a young male kept by an adult for sexual purposes. That would make the centurion both a homosexual and a pederast. Yet, Jesus granted his wish.

In addition to above two statements by Jesus, there are other passages in Paul's writing at Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy which religious conservatives often interpret as condemning same-gender sexual behavior. Similarly, Jude 1:7 is often interpreted as condemning same-gender sexual behavior. However, religious liberals often interpret these same passages as referring to other than homosexuals.

Referring to homosexual orientation as similar to being left-handed, the revised curriculum was merely referring to a near consensus of researchers in human sexuality -- who are not religious conservatives -- that a person's sexual orientation is determined before birth by a genetic or epigenetic process. A small-scale study into epigenetics in 2016 appears to have confirmed this. However, back in 2004, researchers were still searching for a gene, or group of genes, that cause homosexuality without much success.

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About the course:

According to a report in Focus on the Family's web site, some parents strongly object to two video presentations which form part of the Revised Curriculum for students in Grade 10. The video allegedly tackles two of the major deterrents that young people have when they decide to become sexually active and want to prevent STD transmission and pregnancy. They are:

  • Difficulties in selecting a condom style from the intimidating variety which are stocked on the shelves of most drug stores, and

  • Knowing how to properly use them.

The first video for Grade 8 middle school students said that:

"buying condoms isn't as scary as you might think ...Sometimes it is hard to choose, though, and it can be a little overwhelming at first."

It offers suggestions on how to select the "right condom."

The second video presentation, intended for Grade 10 high school students, features a woman who recommends abstinence as the preferred sexual option. But in the event that a person decides to be sexually active, she demonstrates the use of a condom by rolling one over a cucumber.

The average age when sexually active teens in the U.S. first engage in sex is 16. The Board probably included contraceptive information in the Grade 10 sex-ed class because most of the students would then be approximately 15 years-of-age and not yet sexually active.

Some adults in the community organized a group called "Citizens for Responsible Curriculum" to oppose the sex-ed classes as they were then structured. They joined with the Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) in Virginia. That is a group dedicated to the belief that persons with a homosexual orientation can become heterosexual or celibate through counseling and/or prayer. On MAY-03, Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian legal defense group, launched a federal lawsuit against the Board on behalf of the two groups. Liberty Counsel based their brief to the court on two concerns:

  • The material included information on gay-positive churches and liberal religious groups that were tolerant of homosexuality, and ignored conservative churches which taught that homosexuality was wrong.

  • The school board had an "... irrational phobia of the ex-gay community."

U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams issued a ten-day temporary restraining order that prohibited the school system from implementing its program. He wrote, in part, that:

"The court is extremely troubled by the willingness of the defendants to venture, or perhaps more correctly, bound, into the crossroads of controversy where religion, morality, and homosexuality converge."

Liberty Counsel circulated an email on MAY-08 saying that the case was the:

"... most significant curriculum decision ever rendered. ... yesterday's decision snatched our youth out of the jaws of a radical homosexual agenda. ... We are thrilled with the judge's ruling, and we thank God that our children will not become mere human experiments of a radical sex education curriculum."

During late May, the Board of Education voted to abandon its program They decided, with a vote of 7 to 1, to create a new sex education program. It was to be written by school educators with help from a new citizens advisory committee.

The SIECUS article concluded:

"The use of conservative legal groups to advocate against comprehensive sexuality education programs and to scare local school districts into ultimately canceling their programs is a dangerous trend and an important one to monitor." 4

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Webmaster's comment: [bias alert]

Debates similar to this one in Maryland over sex-ed classes continue today, more than a decade later.

Although the focus of the video is homosexual orientation and contraception, it was partly motivated by a third concern that is paramount in the conservative Christian communities: abortion access. If sex-ed class are successfully removed from the school curriculum in a region of the country, then one can predict that the number of unintended and unexpected pregnancies will increase. This would, in turn, cause an increase in the number of abortions, which -- to many religious conservatives -- involves the killing of a human person.

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Site navigation: Home > Conflict > Homosexuality > Religious impact > Teaching > here

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The first three hyperlinks are no longer functioning in 2017.

  1. Michael Foust, "Pro-homosexuality curriculum in Md. schools blocked by fed. judge, citing anti-faith bias," Baptist Press, 2005-MAY-06, at: http://www.bpnews.net/
  2. "Civil Action No. AW-05-1194," United States District Court for the District of Maryland; Southern division, 2005-MAY-05, at: http://www.mdd.uscourts.gov/ This is a PDF file.
  3. Steve Jordahl, "Parents oppose graphic sex-ex class. Lawsuit filed to stop implementation of pro-gay curriculum," Focus on the Family, 2005-MAY-05, at: http://www.family.org/
  4. "Montgomery County, MD Cancels Controversial Sexuality Education Program," sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), 2005, at: http://www.siecus.org/

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Copyright © 2005 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-MAY-08
Latest update: 2017-JAN-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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