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Why the Government Doesnt Belong in People’s Sex Lives, Even Teenagers’

Opinion Editorial
November 12, 1999

By  Mike Krause

In eight towns in Colorado, the federal government is running an Abstinence Education Program to promote chastity amongst teenagers. These programs take tax dollarsa little over a half a million bucks a year for five years here in Coloradoand use them to buy written promises from teenagers that they will remain virgins until marriage. In return for signing the pledge and agreeing to take the message to other young people, these teens are rewarded with swing dance and Tao Kwon Do lessons, laser tag sessions and overnight camp outings. You even get a membership card.

The program is a result of the 1996 welfare reform law and is scheduled to run until 2002. Should the U.S. Congress and President Clinton really be the ones who define appropriate standards of sexual behavior?

In George Orwell’s novel 1984, George Orwells female character wears the scarlet sash of the junior anti-sex league and sex outside of marriage is punished by the police. In Orwells words, the sex instinct created a world of its own outside the control of the state. Therefore sex and sexuality had to be quashed and the pent up. Sexual energy was re-directed, through workshops and educational rallies, towards advancing ideas of the Party.

If you think the Orwellian comparison a bit extreme, consider the following section of the government’s definition of an abstinence program: “teaches that a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity.” It is stunningly arrogant on the part of politicians to set an expected government standard for something as amazingly complex and systemic- not to mention none of their damn business- as human sexual activity, especially the confusing and powerful blossoming sexuality of adolescents. (I still vaguely recall mine).

This official government definition of appropriate sex also rings hollow given the track record for fidelity among elected officials. No word from the White House whether Bill Clinton’s “inappropriate” contacts with Monica Lewinsky qualify as a “human sexual act.” And no word from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich whether the speaker’s adulterous relationship which led to the breakup of his second marriage is qualifies as “a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in context of marriage.” President Clinton and Speaker Gingrich were having their extramarital dalliances during the very same year (as well as various other years) in which they started spending tax dollars to tell teenagers that extramarital sex was immoral.

This is a piece of social engineering whereby those teenagers who conduct themselves as politicians deem fit are rewarded with handouts from the government goody bag and have their esteem validated not by parents and friends but by the state. Those who do not go along with federal sex standards get nothing, except a suggestion that they are somehow less worthy than their fellows.

This is the same use of coercion and divisiveness routinely practiced by elected know it alls. In our Byzantine tax code there are sundry number of tax credits reserved for those who conduct themselves as the government deems fit. Your reward for compliance is a tax credit of some kind, while those who do not behave themselves are punished by having to dole out more tax dollars than their fellow citizens.

“Abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage” may well be the appropriate “expected standard for all school age children.” But this standard should be by parents, peer groups and churches who do so out of love, concern and deeply held beliefs. Sex standards attached to tax dollars handed down from politicians falls into the category of control and coercion–not to mention hypocrisy.

The federal sex program is required to have “as its exclusive purpose teaching the social, psychological and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity.” What happens when young people experiment with their sexuality and find that (with proper precautions) sex does not leave them deranged, dying of some dread disease or cast out of society? They discover they have been lied to. Just like they have been lied to in drug and alcohol “education” programs whose exaggerations fool only naive fifth graders.

Value judgments on teen sex and sexuality are best left to the mores of families, communities. The government’s only legitimate role regarding sex is to protect people from sex crimes such as rape.

There are eight definitions of sexuality and abstinence attached to this program. Which is eight more than our elected leaders have the moral authority to impose. Politicians such as Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich lack the personal integrity to lead by example. Unwilling to control their own impulses, they settle for using federal money to try control other people’s impulses instead. Nothing in the Constitution gives Congress and the President the slightest authority to use federal money to tell people when or how to have sex. But some politicians are just as ready to break their oaths to uphold the Constitution as they are to break their marriage vows.

Mike Krause wrote this article for the Independence Institute, a think tank in Golden which studies education and welfare policy, https://i2i.org.

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