Last night in President Bush’s State of the Union Address, he laid out his plans for the upcoming year. On the President’s to-do list were two public initiatives that I wish to look into with more detail, not as separate issues but as two very distinct issues that must coincide with one another to reach a common goal. These issues are public education and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. On the outset, one could easily see the correlation between the two subjects, but what I wish to bring to your attention is the blatant misuse of funds by the federal and state governments that not only deny proper education on the subject domestically, but also where it is needed most, on the continent of Africa. I will show how the stigma held by religious conservatives on subjects such as sexual intercourse coupled with the archaic views on contraception held by the Catholic Church have lead our government, through lobby groups and special interests, to all but ignore the problems of sexually transmitted disease as well as teen pregnancy. Knowing that this subject is very complex, I will attempt to keep this essay short enough to keep your attention while hopefully broadening your prospective on the subject.
Today in America at least 30% of our public schools rely on abstinence only approaches to sexual education, while close to 40% rely on an “abstinence plus” approach. Although abstinence is the only sure fire measure against sexually transmitted disease and teen pregnancy, it is by no means a viable option to sexual education. Our children need an unbiased approach to sexual intercourse that is free from the religious morality imposed by the Christian community. It may be alarming to some, but of our 50 states, all requiring sexual education in our publicly funded schools, 12 of these states mandate abstinence only approaches, denying funding for anything but. An abstinence only approach leaves no room for education on condom use or other safe alternatives to sexual intercourse. This approach is only backed by 15% of the American population based on a study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, yet the Evangelical hold on our public policy has once again extended far beyond their populative constituency.
The stance held by religious conservatives on sexual education is irresponsible to say the least. This is very apparent in the small community of Owasso Oklahoma where I grew up. It is widely known that the local Baptist Church has a major influence on local initiatives, which along with an already highly conservative population, has all but ignored a fairly obvious teen pregnancy crisis. Although I was unable to obtain any official statistics on the subject, due mostly to the local high schools unwillingness to cooperate with me on the subject, the problem is well known throughout the community. I use this example only to illustrate this problem at a local level so I can then show its significance at the International level.
In 2004 the Bush administration appropriated close to 4 billion dollars towards the AIDS epidemic in Africa and then gave more than 200 million dollars of that funding to a small number of Catholic Charities to spend on humanitarian relief. This is ironic considering that the Catholic Church condemns the use of condoms, which are considered the most realistic and effective barrier for combating the spread of HIV by the International AIDS Alliance, and instead teaches (or preaches) their abstinence only demagogue under a guise of humanitarian relief. Do we as Americans believe that the Catholic Church should use our tax dollars to explain to the tribal people of Africa, who have been genetically programmed for the last 200,000 years to preserve their species and tribal heritage through reproduction, that they should no longer have sex because god doesn’t want them to? It’s fairly obvious that if the Bush administration were even remotely concerned with saving the lives of the millions of AIDS stricken natives of Africa, they wouldn’t waste the American tax payer’s money by sending to Africa a religious organization that refuses to acknowledge the use of contraception, then replacing it with the mid-evil and intolerant religious views of Thomas Aquinas, expounding that sexual conduct is immoral and full abstinence is gods true virtue. Teaching abstinence to tribal African cultures is like explaining to a two year old that chocolate is going to make him fat. He will hear you and probably understand you, but he won’t really care. Why is this? It’s because being fat isn’t a social concern of a two year old, just like adhering to the religious views of some fundamentalist Christian from America isn’t going to be a social concern of a twenty year old Kenyan man who will rely on his offspring to harvest next seasons coffee crop. This is not rocket science, it is common sense, a virtue that seems to have left the minds of those who expound these beliefs.
Many on the religious right condemn Islam for its intollerance and injustice towards humanity, but religious fanaticism, textual literalism and intolerance are not issues that stop with the Muslim community. The Christian religious conservatives of this nation are hindering our personal freedoms, stifling important advancements in scientific and medical research, and imposing their belief system on the whole of the American public in ways that cannot be overlooked. If we as Americans continue to ignore this problem, controversies such as stem cell research, abortion or sexual education will no longer be of our concern. This will instead be replaced with the concern of nuclear holocaust and a global war of religions.