SALT LAKE CITY, Utah—We don't know how much boys and girls in Utah know about sex, but they're likely to remain as ignorant as they may already be, thanks to HB 363, a new law passed Tuesday by the state senate that will allow schools to stop teaching sex education and will prohibit instruction on how to use contraceptives or any discussion of homosexuality in the classroom.
"To replace the parent in the school setting, among people who we have no idea what their morals are, we have no ideas what their values are, yet we turn our children over to them to instruct them in the most sensitive sexual activities in their lives, I think is wrongheaded," The Salt Lake Tribune quoted Republican state Sen. Stuart Reid as saying.
That is a remarkable comment, considering those same teachers also instruct Utah's children on a myriad other subjects that are equally important to their lives, but neither is it surprising. From the state Supreme Court on down, Utah seems committed to maintaining moral control of its citizens and determining for them how they may live their lives.
It is, in fact, social engineering at its most egregious.
One of the inevitable fallouts of this law is that Utah will remain one of the nation's leading states in terms of sex-related searches online, as young and old people alike take to the web to inform themselves of things their schools are prevented from even discussing.
Utah also usually ranks first in terms of porn usage in hotels, which tells us that the sexual constraints imposed by the Mormon Church as well as Utah society in general drive men to those hotels in droves for experiences they are denied elsewhere.
The bill passed the senate 19-10, which means not every legislator is in the ignorant majority, but as reported by the Tribune, "A number of lawmakers, all Democrats, rose to speak against the bill Tuesday and ask questions. But Senate bill sponsor Sen. Margaret Datyon, R-Orem, refused to answer questions about the bill, saying 'I think everybody basically knows where they are on this issue. Obviously, the senators may speak, but I don’t know that it’s going to be beneficial for me to try to debate or answer questions.'"
Nice illustration of democratic governing! How does a Utah teacher possibly deal with this episode in class, or will that be forbidden, too?
One senator, Luz Robles (D-Salt Lake City) made an excellent point when she said the initiative contradicts the oft-remarked objective of many lawmakers to keep government out of people's lives.
"It’s concerning when now we’re trying to dictate morality," she said.
But, as all Americans have learned from watching the Republican Presidential debates, such hypocrisy has become the foundation of socially conservative politicians, including even the so-called libertarian Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), who has no trouble intruding on other people's lives when it involves a moral subject of which he disapproves—and he is certainly the most consistently libertarian of the bunch.
But, like the national debate over contraceptives, the Utah sex education issue is being framed by state Republicans as about freedom, not of religion per se, but of the family, which they say has the sole responsibility for discussions of sex.
"I recognize that some parents do not take the opportunity to teach in their own homes," said Sen. John Valentine (R-Orem), "but we as a society should not be teaching or advocating homosexuality or sex outside marriage or different forms of contraceptives for premarital sex."
Sen. Mark Madsen (R-Eagle Mountain) said, "Something is amiss when we have to send our kids to school where they want to teach morals and sexuality and then the school sends them back home so the parents can teach them how to read."
That is a cynical and absurd comment, but you get the point. What these myopic individuals fail to acknowledge is that in dictating that sex education classes must teach abstinence, they have utterly contradicted themselves in terms of wanting to keep sex education in the home. They want it in the school, all right, but only if it is about abstinence.
Currently, Utah schools can teach abstinence-based or abstinence-only curriculum, and parents can opt their son or daughter in for sex education classes, but the new bill no longer offers parents that option.
So much for giving parents control, and so much for the state sending a message that it respects its own teachers.
The bill was earlier characterized as a war on sex. It is that, but it is also a war on children and parents.
HB 363 now goes to governor for a signature or a veto.