Despite the best efforts of ancient and modern religious radicals, dictators and the fearful, science always wins out.
That was the case 400 years ago when the Catholic Church used the Roman Inquisition to try and silence Galileo Galilei. The Church infamously tried to gag Galileo for his insistence on what Church officials considered a heretical heliocentric solar system.
Galileo championed reality.
History repeated itself this week when modern Catholic officials and a wide variety of passionate and gravely mistaken religious zealots seemingly channeled those dark days of the Roman Inquisition. En mass and individually, they made unnerving threats and claims at the State Capitol, via email and on social media against those insisting that science and reality drive sex education in public schools.
Not at all unlike religious activists centuries ago, far-right Christian zealots from across the state have descended on the Legislature during the past few weeks and rained down histrionics against House Bill 1032.
The measure seeks to update Colorado’s sex education laws governing public schools.
For years, state regulations have made clear that sex education in public schools cannot defy science when teaching students about sexual orientation, human biology and disease. The science is clear on all these matters, including that homosexuality is no more wrong nor right, healthy nor unhealthy than heterosexuality. It just is.
Just as important, Colorado has long made it unlawful for public schools to impose the pseudo-science of so-called abstinence-only education on children of any age.
Comprehensive sex education does promote practicing abstinence for adolescents, but it also wisely teaches students how to protect themselves against disease, pregnancy and sexual abuse if they do become sexually active.
The science behind that curricular philosophy is sound and provable.
Despite theatrics produced by critics, all this bill does is expand comprehensive sex education topics to include better information on gender orientation and information on protecting young adults from sexual abuse and other types of abuse in relationships.
Some groups, however, such as those from the Catholic Church community, are promoting pure fiction about the measure. The bill does not force any child to take sex education classes, nor does it force any school to teach sex education, which in our view is an oversight.
Ironically, the same day Catholic Church leaders fought this important legislation, they also appeared with state legal officials to help further identify and address generations of victims of sexual abuse inflicted by their clergy, part of the church’s repugnant and seemingly endless global scandal. It’s clear this group, among others, is in no position to recommend to the Legislature nor anyone best practices for teaching or dealing with human sexuality.
Despite misinformation, the bill simply requires that public schools that do teach sex education ensure the classes are comprehensive, science based and accurate. And it provides money mostly to rural school districts to help them do just that.
Telling students that they’re abnormal, sick, broken or in need of brainwashing or spiritual cleansing because they wonder if, or know that, they’re gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or gender blurred is neither accurate nor is it in any way healthful nor helpful. That’s the science behind the issue.
The law does not prevent parents from giving their own children misinformation about human sexuality. Colorado wisely reserves that level of state intervention for the most egregious incidents of religious foul play. While parents have every right to inflict emotional or other damage on their children regarding human sexuality, Colorado still steps in to save children with life-saving medical care when parents say their religious beliefs preclude it.
There’s no doubt that accurate and comprehensive sex education taken to heart can and does improve and even save endless lives by empowering people to protect themselves from HIV and other diseases and abuse. But HB 1032 does not usurp parental power to deny any student this life-saving program.
Perhaps if enough students get adequate sexuality education, driven by sound science, that won’t be the problem in the future that it clearly is now for too many children in Colorado.