Speakers included Debra Haffner of the Institute who provided an overview of the issues and Bill Smith of SIECUS who explained the importance of passing REAL Sex Education, the Responsible Education About Life Act (S.611, H.R. 1551), which would provide the first federal money ($50 million) for sex education. The $1.5 billion (yes, billion) in federal and state money for abstinence-only programs of the previous administration failed utterly to teach young people how to be sexually responsible.
Ann Hanson of the United Church of Christ (UCC) informed the staffers and others present about the Our Whole Lives religious education curriculum that the UCC and Unitarian Universalists have developed with great results. Emily Goodstein of Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice brought the wise voice of young women to the table. Cedric Harmon of City of Refuge Church added pastoral insight from within communities hard hit by HIV/AIDS. Ignacio Castuera, the first National Chaplain of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, spoke of the need for sex education within Hispanic communities.
The message of the day was that progressive religious groups are foursquare behind federal funding for sex education and also perfectly wiling to let those whose religious views keep them from supporting it to opt out of programs for their own children. In a democratic society that seems like a fair and prudent way forward.
I walked across the Capitol lawn to Union Station on a gorgeous sunny day to return to the office. I ran into the protest by ADAPT, dozens of people in wheelchairs lined up across busy Capital Hill streets on both the House and Senate sides of the area. They seek passage of legislation to make more choices available to people who receive disability funding (Community Choice Act, S. 683, H.B.1670). They want to be able to live at home rather than have to go to nursing homes or other institutions. Almost 200 people were arrested and hundreds more scaled the steps of the Capitol, some leaving their chairs below, to dramatize their views (http://www.adapt.org/freeourpeople/cca09/report04.htm).
At the same time, colleagues from the third annual Transgender Religious Leaders Summit, co-sponsored by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in religion and Ministry (CLGS) and the National Center for Transgender Equality were lobbying their representatives for trans rights. I could not help but think what a new day it is in DC, how there is hope in the air that some of these basic justice issues will be solved in the near future. Ah, spring in a new era.
-- Mary E. Hunt