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As clergy, we have a responsibility to remind our congregations, our communities, and our elected leaders that our religious traditions view the body and our physical world as a sacred arena in which God acts. We believe that God has blessed human beings with the capacity to experience sexual intimacy in order that we may bear children and sustain the sacred experience of life.  We also believe that the loving experience of sexual intimacy by itself, without procreative intent, is likewise one of God’s gifts to humanity.

This leads to the moral imperative that we equip young people with the knowledge and skills they need to understand their bodies and make informed and healthy decisions about sex and relationships.  Many of our houses of worship provide sex education that is age and developmentally appropriate. These programs include an emphasis on abstinence as the best way to keep oneself safe and healthy. Many young people take this path and we offer them our support and encouragement. However, the average age of first sex in the U.S. is 17; thus, some teens will choose to become sexually active, and we are morally responsible for them as well.

As religious leaders from many faiths, we counsel young people as they grapple with social pressures and difficult decisions. We spend time with families and teens through religious instruction, youth activities, confirmation, Bar and Bat Mitzvah, and much, much more. We know how important it is that our youth get the honest and non-judgmental facts they need about safer sex and healthy relationships. We believe it is immoral to lie to our children by giving them inadequate and inaccurate sex education or to subject them to abstinence-only programs that fail to teach them how to prevent pregnancy and how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections and abuse.  

The reality is that every year in our country, half of the 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections  are diagnosed in young people ages 15 – 24 and approximately 750,000 teenagers become pregnant. Studies confirm that high-quality and comprehensive sex education helps young people delay first intercourse, reduce the number of sexual partners, and increase the use of condoms and contraception when they do become sexually active. Comprehensive sex education is proven to work, and polling consistently shows that it is supported by a vast majority of parents.  It is morally wrong to withhold such medical information from our children.

Sex education can strengthen family communication by encouraging young people to talk with trusted adults about sex and relationships. When we are honest with our teens, they will respond to our candor by being honest with us. When families engage in sound conversation about a sensitive matter like sex, teens will know where they can turn to in time of need. Moreover, teens who report having positive conversations with their parents about sex are more likely to delay sex, have fewer partners, and use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do have sex. Stronger family ties, an additional benefit of sex education, will serve teens and their loved ones well.

For the sake of our young people, we urge Congress and state legislatures to heed the evidence and to fund programs that have been shown to be effective in providing young people with the age-appropriate information they need to grow up as healthy and happy as possible. As clergy we feel that comprehensive sex education is a moral imperative, and we long to see such sex education become the norm. To do anything less falls short of society’s moral obligation to nurture the health and well-being of the young lives entrusted to us by God.


The Planned Parenthood® Federation of America Clergy Advisory Board (CAB), launched in 1994, leads a national effort to increase public awareness of the theological and moral basis for advocating reproductive health and justice. CAB members are dedicated pro-choice clergy from different denominations and communities throughout the U.S. who work with Planned Parenthood at the national and state levels to further the goal of full reproductive freedom for all women and men.

April 2014

Trusted care, every step of the way

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