Honorable mention — Grad student essay contest: Florencia Alejandra Cabral Berenfus
Getting our sex ed from the bible
FFRF awarded Florencia $200.
By Florencia Alejandra Cabral Berenfus
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution establishes that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It thus protects citizens’ freedom of, and more importantly, from, religion. Unfortunately, it is difficult to ignore the insidious manner in which religion, and biblical teachings in particular, have illegitimately made their way into the public and private life of American citizens.
One such example involves the distorted understanding of human sexuality that stems from religious verses and tradition, which prescribe a very narrow expression of such, and vilify any deviations. It is evident that the heterocentric vision of sexuality that is seen as a means to an end, namely procreation, continues to cause much harm to public health and civil rights in the United States. In Genesis 1:27, we are told that “God created man in his own image […] male and female created he them.” This passage is immediately followed by “[…] and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the Earth.” This last verse rings as an instruction manual for the newly created species, as it lays down the ultimate purpose of male and female humans: to team up and procreate. Christianity has certainly taken it to heart; we are hardly surprised at its ongoing war on nonprocreative heterosexual intercourse, uses of birth control or reproductive rights, in general.
Some of the detrimental effects of these archaic attitudes toward sexuality in the public sphere include a constant battle to cut public funding for reproductive health organizations, such as Planned Parenthood. In more general terms, the battle religious groups wage is against safe, legal access to services like contraception, STD testing, sex education and abortions. Certainly, from the reductionist religious perspective, society must at all costs refrain from facilitating deviations from the linear path to “multiplying”: abstinence before marriage, and contraception- free intercourse after it. From an evidence-based public health perspective, however, we know that denying youth sex education and contraception can only lead to a teenage pregnancy crisis, and an increased demand for abortions — the very phenomenon these groups wage against. Moreover, we know that undermining the work of such publicly funded organizations would have an especially devastating impact on working class women and men, leading to further hardship and societal inequality.
This vision of the “natural” expression of human sexuality is further supported by verses that lament same-sex intercourse, as in Romans 1:26-27: “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature / And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly.” These verses unequivocally present homosexuality as an unnatural, and further, “unseemly” alternative. Regrettably, thousands of years after these lines were produced, people feel entitled to exhibit discriminatory behavior toward those who identify as LGBT, even going as far as to defend their stances in court. In 2015, after same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, a county clerk in Kentucky refused to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple, claiming to defend “God’s authority.” Moreover, several states such as Texas and Mississippi have enacted laws that enable businesses to deny service to LGBT people on the basis of “religious freedom.” Recently, a Colorado baker refused to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding, citing his religious objections to gay marriage. On learning that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the baker, we are left with uncertainty of our ability to fully live our lives in freedom from religion.
It is clear that the bible has already caused enough harm on American thought, society and political discourse. As a text of ancient doctrines and ostensibly discriminatory content, it simply has no role in the context of policymaking. Consequently, it is only by restricting faith to the private sphere that we will truly be able to build a society based on justice and shared well- being. It is my personal hope that the bible soon finds its home in the shelves of our libraries’ “History” sections.
Florencia, 29, is from Boulder, Colo., and attends the University of Colorado-Boulder, where she is majoring in applied computer science as an undergrad. She worked for four years managing projects for evidence-based public policy development in Latin America and volunteered for two years with the secular organization Mentoring International, coordinating a team of mentors for underserved high school aged students in El Salvador.