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Teen Health 411

Speaking Out About Adolescent Sexuality

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The Reverend Debra Haffner is talking about adolescent sexuality again, and I love it! The Center for American Progress published an article recently in which Reverend Haffner talks about the fact that parents in the United States seem to be raising some of the most sexually confused adolescents in the world. While our movies, advertising, Internet, music, and TV give the message that "everyone is doing it," the federal government and 46 states have policies endorsing abstinence-only until marriage, in spite of the fact that the majority of people have been having sex before marriage for decades. In addition, today's teens reach puberty earlier and marry later than any other generation in history.

The article discusses the "Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Adolescent Sexuality" just released by the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing recognizes the fact that sexuality in most religious communities remains shrouded in silence but that adolescents have the right to full, accurate sexual health information and to be accepted within the faith community regardless of the sexual decisions they have made. The letter also lays out specific actions that faith communities need to take in order to support those rights, which include:
  • Supporting parents in teaching children and teens about sexuality;
  • Creating an honest, and open environment for discussion of sexuality issues, including age-appropriate sexuality education in the context of faith values;
  • Collaborating with community organizations to promote adolescent sexual health; and
  • Recognizing the sexual diversity of adolescents in their congregations, including those who are sexually active and those who are gay and lesbian.
Reverend Haffner is calling for religious leaders to accept their responsibility to speak out against educational programs that deny young people the medically accurate information they need to protect themselves and others from sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy. She also encourages religious leaders to oppose parental notification and consent laws that restrict teens' access to life-saving reproductive health services. She acknowledges that this commitment will be tough for many clergy who have not received any training during their seminary time to address human sexuality issues, but struggle is not new to the church!

Photo credit: jennybento

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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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