Atheists issue demand letter to Ohio school district over 'religious' sex ed

by Gregory Tomlin |

(Wooster CVB)The school district in tiny Wooster, Ohio, is under fire for allowing from American Atheists for allowing a pregnancy center to teach in schools that abstinence and monogamous marriage are the best means for preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. The group claims that belief is religion, not science.

CRANFORD, N.J. (Christian Examiner) – The American Atheists Legal Center has issued a letter to the Wooster City School District in Ohio demanding the district bar a religiously-affiliated pregnancy center from teaching about abstinence, the prevention of sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) through monogamous marriages, and adoption as an alternative to abortion.

According to the letter, dated Nov. 9, information provided to students by the Pregnancy Center of Wayne County was "inaccurate" and "religiously motivated."

The atheist group described the pregnancy center as "a faith-based facility that does not offer any information about emergency contraception or abortion services, nor provide screenings for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or information about STD prevention."

The Pregnancy Center of Wayne County began as an outreach of Wooster Grace Brethren Church in 1984.

According to the complaint, representatives of the center "told students that marriage prevents STDs and that adoption is the only option for students who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest."

Amanda Knief, national legal director and public policy director for American Atheists, said in statement accompanying the complaint letter that schools are expected to provide "factual information about every subject."

"To see that students have been lied to about their options if they are sexually assaulted and lied to about how to protect themselves from STDs is appalling. Without providing accurate information, the school is putting students' lives at risk."

The Wooster City School District’s Bylaws & Policies forbids instructional activities that 'advance … any particular religion or religion generally.' The statements attributed to the pregnancy center representative relate to religious values about marriage protecting against STDs, about when to have children, and about adoption as the only option for an unwanted pregnancy. Certainly, the program presented by this pregnancy center representative furthers religious beliefs about reproductive health care — not legal and medically accurate information about reproductive health care.
- Amanda Knief, American Atheists

Controversy over the pregnancy center's presence in the school began in a Family and Consumer Science Class at the end of October. According to the complaint letter, a representative of the pregnancy center made "several statements" that confused an 8th grader in the course. Those statements included claims that adoption is the only option when a girl is impregnated through rape or incest, marriage prevents STDs and that people should refrain from having children until they are married.

The child's parent complained to the school and was told by an associate principal that the pregnancy center spoke in the school annually.

"The parent called the school again on November 3, 2015, this time speaking to Associate Principal Nolan Wickard about the factually inaccurate information given to the students and asking if a health care provider or representative from the Wooster Health Center, a Planned Parenthood clinic, could address the class about STD prevention and alternatives to unwanted pregnancy. The parent had already contacted both a nurse and the clinic to ensure their availability. Mr. Wickard refused, telling the parent such information would not be presented to the students," the complaint letter said.

Knief then wrote that, in cases where a girl is the victim of rape or incest, Ohio state law demands she be given access to emergency contraceptives. She can also have an elective abortion, Knief wrote.

"The second statement that the pregnancy center representative is said to have made—that marriage prevents STDs—is also false. There is no mention of 'marriage' on the STD prevention webpages of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Mayo Clinic," Knief also wrote.

That much is true. Neither website mentions marriage specifically as means of preventing STDs, since marriage is now only defined by the Supreme Court only as a legal arrangement.

Factually, however, those who have no STD and are married to another person without an STD will not transmit an STD if the only person he or she has sexual intercourse with for an entire marriage is a spouse without an STD.

That is why both the CDC and the Mayo Clinic describe abstinence and mutual monogamy as the best means of protecting against STDs. Two of the prevention guidelines offered by the Mayo Clinic are abstinence and to "stay with 1 uninfected partner" in a "long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who isn't infected."

Knief also swiped at the State of Ohio when she wrote that it would be better for the district to cease imposing views about children born out of wedlock, especially since Ohio ranked 23rd in the nation in teen pregnancies.

However, according to statistics provided by the Ohio Department of Health, Wayne County is consistently among the counties with the lowest teen pregnancy rates in the state. Ohio also has promoted abstinence education as part of a federally funded program, and will continue to do so with federal funding until 2016.

Knief eventually showed her hand in the letter. She claimed the statements attributed to the representative of the pregnancy center "relate to religious values about marriage protecting against STDs, about when to have children, and about adoption as the only option for an unwanted pregnancy. Certainly, the program presented by this pregnancy center representative furthers religious beliefs about reproductive health care—not legal and medically accurate information about reproductive health care."

The American Atheists Legal Center, the parent, and the student, according to the complaint letter, are demanding "an equal amount of time" for a pro-abortion, non-religious sex education group to speak to students. The group is also demanding the Pregnancy Center of Wayne County not be allowed to speak at the school anymore.

Wooster is a city of 25,000 in northern Ohio.