The religious right is now decrying “obscenity” in schools, by which they mean any discussion of LGBT issues or sex education.
In a press release, the Liberty Counsel directly attacks laws that allow schools to show materials that would otherwise be considered obscene if they have an educational value.
The Liberty Counsel has a few examples of the “obscenity” being taught in schools, which include I Am Jazz, a book about Jazz Jennings that’s completely appropriate for children.
They also cite sex ed guidelines from the National Education Association that suggest talking to kids about “different kinds of family structures,” which the Liberty Counsel calls “exposing [kids] to homosexuality.”
The press release also mentions a few lessons for high school students in which they had to learn what oral, vaginal, and anal sex are.
The examples aren’t exactly shocking, unless you believe that no one should learn anything about sex until the night before their wedding. In the real world, young people are going to hear about sexuality, they’re going to experience it, so they should have good information about it.
After more research, Liberty Counsel discovered that the laws in 43 states have exemptions from obscenity laws that permit sexually explicit materials in schools that can facilitate this kind of misbehavior.
They’re referring to laws that allow schools to use materials that would be deemed inappropriate in other contexts if there’s educational value to them. For example, a picture of a naked person might not be appropriate in math class, but in anatomy or health class, it makes sense.
But the Liberty Counsel insists that sex education “desensitizes [children] to sexual ideas, conversations and conduct.” It cites several statistics about sexual abuse and rape.
In reality, it’s the opposite. Keeping kids in the dark about sexuality makes them more likely to be victims of abuse. If they don’t know what an adult is doing to them, don’t have the words to describe it, don’t know that they can say “no,” and believe that it’s a taboo topic that they shouldn’t bring up with adults that could help them, then they’re easier targets for abusers.
“Comprehensive sex ed builds a foundation for these conversations in age-appropriate ways,” said Nicole Cushman of the organization Answer. “That [allows] us not to just equip young people with knowledge and definitions, but the ability to recognize sexual harassment and assault and actually create culture change around this issue.”
Learning about sex can also stop them from assaulting others. 46% of college students in a Kaiser Institute study said it’s “unclear whether sexual activity when both people have not given clear agreement is sexual assault.”
On the other hand, a youth pastor who frequently denounced “sexual immorality” and who used software on his computer that prevented him from looking at pornography has been charged with sexually abusing five minors.
But this press release from the Liberty Counsel could be a sign that the religious right in shifting focus to “obscenity in schools.” Recently, a blogger known as “Activist Mommy” organized a school sit-out to protest “immoral sex education.”
Mary McAlister, a Liberty Counsel lawyer who says she wants to “stop the satanic sexualization of our children and the destruction of the family,” said that sex education is “the Enemy, that’s Satan and his minions.”
Taking on the issue of “educational obscenity exemptions” has a few benefits for the religious right. First, it allows them to oppose LGBT equality without just saying that they hate LGBT people.
Second, it allows them to be righteously indignant about sexual abuse and rape, even as they’re complicit in perpetuating them.
Third, it gives them a project to fundraise for, since overturning marriage equality is probably not going to happen any time soon. This is a state-level fight, and the right can chip away at states better than it can the U.S. Supreme Court.
This could become a trend for Christian conservatives.