Should the Catholic Church dictate public school curriculum?

This article contains news and liberal commentary.

Washington enacted a law in 2020 mandating comprehensive sex education in public schools.  Its purpose is “to protect young people from sexual abuse, diseases and infections.” Huffington Post described the sex ed curriculum as follows: “Kindergarteners would be taught how to manage feelings and make friends, while older kids will learn about consent and how to respond to violence. The curriculum must also address issues faced by LGBTQ students.”

Read story here and details of the bill here.

Conservatives oppose the law and are seeking to overturn it by referendum. They gathered enough signatures to get it on the November ballot as Referendum 90. “Opposition leaders say they aren’t necessarily opposed to sex education,” but object to a statewide mandate; they prefer to have local school boards and parents controlling education, Huffington Post said in its article published on Monday, September 28, 2020.

The Washington State Catholic Conference played a major role in getting the signatures. They specifically object to teaching older kids about consent and how to say “no,” because they fear that will make premarital sex seem “OK.” Catholic doctrine opposes all premarital sex.

Keep in mind these are public school students they’re talking about. The Catholics have their own school system apart from public schools. The law doesn’t apply to parochial schools, or other private schools. By promoting Referendum 90, the Church is interfering in what is taught to non-Catholic students.

The religious doctrine involved also is problematical, inasmuch as it dictates that unmarried teens may not have sex, period. If they can get teens in the Catholic system to go along with this, more power to them. But even in Catholic families, that defies reality. Here’s the problem: Keeping kids ignorant about sex, and how to deal with sexual issues, won’t make them abstain from sex; it will only make them more vulnerable and expose them to potential harm.

But what business has a private religion trying to impose its belief system on the general public, anyway? With all due respect for Catholicism, it’s not up to Catholic religious leaders to decide what’s taught — or not taught — in public schools.

Huffington Post’s story about the Referendum 90 campaign raises another issue I want to briefly talk about. Senate Bill 5395, the law Referendum 90 seeks to overturn, was passed by a Democratic-controlled legislature and signed into law by a Democratic governor. Opponents are mostly Republicans. The leader of the pro-Referendum 90 campaign, a defeated GOP candidate for state senate in 2016, said, “It feels like we’re just not being listened to.” Wrong. She was outvoted, not “not listened to.” This is a common complaint of conservatives when they’re in the voting minority. They’re not entitled to get their way despite the wishes of the majority. That’s not how we do things in this country. Some people who are neither Republican nor Catholic may support Referendum 90 for their own reasons. If it gets a majority of the votes, fine. That is how we do things in this country.

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  1. Mark Adams #

    It is not just Catholic’s that have that no sex before marriage rule. Most Christian religions have the rule to some extent. The Muslims are very serious about sex outside of marriage, and Judaism really expects people having sex to be married. All these groups have religious schools, but not all. Not all have easy access to a religious school of their choice. Many want their to attend public school, and think they and others have some say with their school board.

    If the referendum passes then the folks in our legislature and our governor went to far. The fact this is the first time in any state for a referendum on sex education is on the ballot suggests the legislature did not listen. And sex education has always been a difficult subject in this nation. The first amendment does mean there is no easy resolution, and there is no one size fits all solution to what has always been a minefield.

  2. Roger Rabbit #

    There are many issues on which you’ll never get everyone to agree, and this is one of them. It went through the representative democracy process, and now it will go through the direct democracy process, and the people will have the final say. If voters uphold the law, dissenting parents will still have the option of sending their kids to parochial or private schools.