On March 20-23, 2010, an interfaith delegation of over forty-five teenagers and adults from around the country will meet in Washington, DC, to advocate for comprehensive sexuality education.
The 2010 Sexuality Education Advocacy Training (SEAT) is co-sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), the United Church of Christ, Advocates for Youth, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. The delegation includes participants who identify as Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, Protestant, and Unitarian Universalist. This year marks the sixth annual SEAT.
SEAT participants hail from thirteen states, including California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, and Washington.
“One of the Unitarian Universalist principles speaks to the interdependent web of life,” said sixteen-year-old Ben Walter of Bloomington, IL. “By attending SEAT, I can develop the knowledge and skills that I need to address issues of sexuality education on a national level." Walter already promotes comprehensive sexuality education in his local community by working for Planned Parenthood of Illinois’ Teen Awareness Group, a peer education program.
Participants will be meeting with their congressional representatives on Monday, March 22, 2010, to advocate for the passage of the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act. Introduced on March 17, 2009, by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-CA, the REAL Act would send $200 million in federal funds over the next four years to the most comprehensive sexuality education programs.
“Youth across the country are being denied essential information through abstinence-only programs,” explained seventeen-year-old Nicole Jurceka of Folcroft, PA. “I want to help people learn what the ‘comprehensive’ in ‘comprehensive sexuality education’ means. Once you know the facts, the choice between comprehensive sexuality education and abstinence-only programs is clear.”
After participating in SEAT 2009, Jurceka organized a daylong workshop modeled after SEAT in her local community in November 2009. She will be a returning participant in SEAT 2010.
Since SEAT 2009, Congress and President Obama have dedicated a total of $133.7 million in federal funds to teen pregnancy prevention programs that discuss both abstinence and contraception. The REAL Act would build on this progress by ensuring grants for programs that not only prevent unintended pregnancy, but also reduce young people’s risk of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
“SEAT gives participants tools and opportunities to be effective, faith-based advocates for comprehensive sexuality education,” said Rob Keithan, director of the UUA Washington Office for Advocacy. “From our religious perspective, it’s wrong to deny youth the resources that they need to make healthy and responsible decisions. Lives are literally at stake.”