Sex and Spirituality

A Louisiana judge recently outlawed certain words from public school classrooms. Taboo terms include "spirit," "soul," and "moral." District Judge Frank Thaxton ruled that two abstinence-based curricula, Sex Respect and Facing Reality, violate a state law that prohibits teaching religion in the classroom. Listen to some of the offending lines: "Spiritual values are an important aspect of human sexuality." And, "People are more than a higher kind of animal. People have mental and spiritual parts in their make-up." Statements like these could hardly be characterized as sectarian raving. They're so broad a Unitarian or New Age follower could endorse them. Still, the judge ruled them off limits for school children. In another example, the curriculum recommends "attend[ing] worship services" as a way to develop values and character. It doesn't mention which church or promote any particular faith. Nevertheless, the judge condemned the statement as an illegal intrusion of religion. In another section, the curriculum asked students to list what it means to be mature, "emotionally, mentally, socially, and spiritually." Uh oh, there's that word again. The judge ruled that any mention of a spiritual dimension violates the law. Then there's that dangerous word "moral." In several places, Sex Respect and Facing Reality say decisions about sexuality must be placed within a "moral framework." Again the language is nonsectarian and general. But again it was ruled impermissible. The teacher's guide for Sex Respect states clearly that public schools may acknowledge spiritual values, but they "are not the place for religious instruction." Even so, the curriculum was condemned as religious indoctrination. Obviously, skittishness over religion in the classroom is being taken to absurd extremes. If we probe beneath the surface, the underlying issue is values. Parents and teachers across the country are rejecting the liberal values woven into curricula written by groups like Planned Parenthood; and they're supporting new curricula like Sex Respect that teach traditional values about sex and marriage. In fact, it's precisely because the new abstinence-based curricula are in such high demand that the old guard sex educators are resorting to the courts, as they did in Louisiana, to scour any hint of spirituality out of the classroom. But the best way to fight competition is to imitate it. And so, ironically, at the same time the courts are removing spiritual language from the classroom, Planned Parenthood is bringing it back in. A recent Planned Parenthood publication says, "Sexuality has many dimensions besides the physical. It also has emotional, psychological, ethical, and spiritual dimensions." Spiritual dimensions? This is new ground for Planned Parenthood. And it means that the battle in the public schools is moving away from a conflict between the secular and the spiritual, and turning into a conflict between competing views of the spiritual. Ephesians says we are engaged in a spiritual battle, and nowhere is that more evident today than in the public schools. While a Louisiana judge outlaws words like "spirit" from the classroom, Planned Parenthood brings the same words back in—redefined according to the spirit of the age.


Chuck Colson


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