I recently returned from a visit to the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia. Most Americans know little about this small place. But it played a role in the American War of Independence. After France entered the war on the American side in early 1778, the British sent a naval force from Boston and captured the island from the French in December of that year.
St. Lucia became a permanent part of the British Empire in 1814, and an independent nation in 1979, but remnants of its French colonial past still persist. One example is that about two-thirds of the island’s citizens are Roman Catholics, and the Catholic Church is very influential in the island’s politics.
St. Lucia isn’t a rich nation, and it has some chronic problems that contribute to this, such as a high rate of teen pregnancy. But even though it’s common for children to become sexually active at young ages, the local Catholic Church continues to promote negative attitudes towards family planning services in favor of preaching sexual abstinence.
This strategy has proven to be inadequate where ever it’s been pursued, including here in the United States. But like St. Lucia, there is strong opposition to sex education for teenagers in the U.S. Here in Arizona, for instance, more than 100 people attended a public meeting on January 7th to discuss the Tempe Union High School District’s sex education curriculum. Many people in the crowd were upset simply because the person making the presentation to the district’s Sex Education Committee was an employee of Planned Parenthood.
The angry people were encouraged to attend and complain by a group called the Alliance Defending Freedom, which describes itself as “a servant ministry building an alliance to keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel by transforming the legal system and advocating for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family”. Before the Tempe meeting occurred the Alliance Defending Freedom had stirred up enough people that the district’s superintendent, Kenneth Baca, issued a preemptive letter to parents, trying to dispel the misinformation the group was distributing. But it obviously didn’t work.
St. Lucia is a poor, tiny island and the United States is the mightiest military nation in the history of the world. But it seems we’re really not so different.
In February 2017 the Southern Poverty Law Center designated the Alliance Defending Freedom as an anti-gay hate group.
On April 24, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Rice issued a permanent injunction blocking the Trump administration from cutting grants to Planned Parenthood that pay for a teen pregnancy prevention program in numerous states.
On September 16, 2019, Arizona Capitol Times reported that state House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, had claimed that proposed public school sex education programs would “radicalize” and “sexualize” children.
On January 10, 2020, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Trump administration’s plan to deny funds for teen pregnancy prevention programs and found that the law requires that money to go to evidence-based programs – a hurdle that abstinence-only programs can’t clear.
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