A handful of governors seem to be leading the revolt against the religious right, and a Pew Research Center poll shows the American electorate may not be far behind. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports, "Gov. Ted Strickland's proposed $53 billion budget eliminates an abstinence-only sex-education program. Removal of $1 million in state aid over two years marks a shift in Ohio support for abstinence-only programs, which advocates call a national model. The federally subsidized program encourages schoolchildren to abstain from sex until they're married. Strickland said he thinks abstinence programs don't work well in the long run and does not plan to apply for federal money (when it ends this fall)."
Ohio's not the first state to take the highly unusual step of walking away from federal education funds. California, Maine, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin also have rejected abstinence-only money. In 2005, a Case Western Reserve University report found Ohio's abstinence-only programs gave false information about contraceptives and abortion and represented religious views as fact. Biologically based sex-education classes in public schools include teaching of the fact that abstinence is the only way to categorically prevent pregnancy and spread of sexually transmitted disease. But in some schools where abstinence-only programs are in effect, teachers are forbidden from teaching human sexual function.
Is America getting fed up with having strict religious mores taught in its public schools and given voice in Washington? A new Pew Research Center poll seems to show this is the case.
The Center's "Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007" finds that American religiosity, which was increasing in the mid-1990s, is starting to head south. "While most Americans remain religious in both belief and practice, the percentage expressing strong religious beliefs has edged down since the 1990s. And the survey finds an increase in the relatively small percentage of the public that can be categorized as secular." Only 45 percent of Americans told Pew researchers that "prayer is an important part of my daily life" this year, as opposed to 55 percent in 1999. Sixty-one percent of Americans told Pew researchers they "never doubted the existence of God," down from 72 percent of Americans making that claim in 1999.
Is Bush administration overkill on the God front to blame? Only God knows, and she isn't telling.
By Bonnie Erbe