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The SRE Council: pro-abstinence and anti-choice?

In May, the newly formed ‘SRE Council’ was launched in Parliament. Here, Education for Choice outline the group’s membership and their views on sex and relationships education:

“Last month Care (Christian Action Research and Education) issued a press release to announce the launch of a new SRE council which has received support from Education Secretary Michael Gove. The release states that the council ‘has been formed to promote the best possible sex and relationship education both at home and at school, recognising the particular importance of enhancing the role played by parents in SRE.’ This blog takes a closer look at the groups involved and what their vision of ‘the best possible SRE’ might look like.

Lovewise ‘Lovewise is a charity which seeks to help schools and youth groups by providing presentations on the subjects of marriage, sex and relationships from a Christian perspective’.

Lovewise’s charitable objectives are to ‘advance the Christian faith…particularly (but not exclusively) the Biblical teaching on human sexuality, marriage and the complementary callings of man and woman’. A glance at their sample presentations for schools shows a shocking disregard for facts (for example claims that abortion causes infertility and breast cancer).

Evaluate Evaluate ‘supports (young people) in delaying sexual experience until a long-term committed exclusive relationship’.

Evaluate is an education programme run by Care, in connection with partner organisation Care Confidential (a network of independent pregnancy advice centres). Care’s charitable object is: ‘The advancement and propagation of the Christian gospel and in particular Christian teaching as it bears on or affects national and individual morality and ethics’. Care advocates for ‘an educated Christian view of life from its beginning at conception to its natural end’.

Challenge Team UK ‘The Challenge Team UK presents its message from a common sense and health perspective, without any religious references.’ That message is, ‘Saving sex for marriage is a positive, realistic and healthy lifestyle.’

Although Challenge Team rejects the term ‘abstinence’ for the work they do, they ‘promote(s) healthy sexuality by…suggesting that teens ‘save sex for marriage’ in order to stay healthy now and enjoy marriage later’. They claim that although ‘all of those involved in the Challenge Team so far have Christian beliefs’and that ‘The Challenge Team Trust Deed has a Christian basis’ none of the materials mention religion.

In line with many of the other organisations in this group Challenge Team take a dim view of current SRE practices: ‘By giving information about condoms and showing teens how to use them, adults who are the authority figures in teens’ lives may be giving them, unintentionally, permission to have sex’.

Life ‘The most important and influential part of LIFE’s ethos is our opposition to all abortion on principle.’

Life, which has also recently joined the government’s sexual health forum describes itself as non-religious. It advocates for ‘Our young people (to be) given a true sense of their self worth and a full appreciation of the importance of loving, stable and faithful relationships and has spoken out against contraception education and current SRE practices. This article evidences Life’s false claim that the morning after pill is an abortifacient.

Silver Ring Thing ‘There is only one true “Safe Sex” message and that must be the message of abstinence until marriage. Through this programme teens are able to understand that abstinence until marriage is not only God’s plan for their lives, but also the best and only way to avoid the harmful physical and emotional effects of premarital sex.’

The UK’s Silver Ring Thing is an import from the U.S which teaches abstinence to young people who are encouraged to wear a silver ring as a symbol of their pledge to abstain from having sex until marriage. The website claims that: ‘the only way to reverse the moral decay of any youth culture is to inspire a change in the conduct and behaviour from those within the culture’ – youth volunteers are used to achieve this aim.

Family Education Trust ‘Sex education is an ideological battlefield on which a war is being waged for the hearts and minds of children. Behind the innocuous-sounding words used by the sex education lobby, there is a definite agenda at work to undermine the role of parents and to tear down traditional moral standards. The need for parents to be alert and vigilant has never been greater’.

The Family Education Trust produce literature campaigning against ‘modern’ methods of SRE arguing for a ‘clear moral framework that shows a proper respect for parents and for marriage.’ Lisa from EFC has blogged about one of their pamphlets aimed at young people here.

Right to Life ‘Right to Life is a political lobby group defending the right to life from conception to natural death’.

This campaign group’s charitable aims include:

• Advancing the public’s education with a view to recognising the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death

• Provid(ing) relief…to young girls, in need of assistance and protection who may be under pressure to have an abortion.

Their educational worksheet on abortion can be seen here.

Some of these groups use the term ‘abstinence’ outright, some don’t. Many of them are anti-choice. Some use misinformation and false statistics. Many make statements which ostracise lesbian, gay and bisexual young people, or those who have/are single parents or are from ‘non-traditional’ families. But what they all share is a commitment to fighting any kind of ‘comprehensive’ SRE programme in which young people are given factual information about their rights and responsibilities and information on how to practice safer sex alongside advice on delaying sex until they are ready. The heavy push these groups make for heterosexual (often assumed to be Christian) marriage being the only valid context for sex is arguably offensive, and at best irrelevant to the lives of many young people in this country.”

This article first appeared on Education for Choice’s blog