CHESTERFIELD, Mo. — A prominent professing atheist group is expressing its objection after discovering that a number of school districts in Missouri are allowing a faith-based organization to teach sexual education classes, urging students to remain abstinent until marriage.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) states that a member informed the group that the organization Thrive has been teaching sex ed in local schools. Thrive operates several crisis pregnancy centers near St. Louis, including a mobile facility, offering free or low-cost services including pregnancy testing and ultrasounds.
FFRF issued letters last week urging Missouri school districts to discontinue its use of Thrive, citing that the organization is a Christian organization, and that it aims to share the gospel with clients. It also noted that Thrive does not provide abortion referrals or contraceptives.
“Thrive does not offer any kind of birth control, emergency contraception or abortions, nor will it make referrals for these medical services,” FFRF wrote in its complaint letter.
The group additionally took issue with Thrive’s abstinence curriculum.
“The Thrive sex education curriculum, which it calls ‘Best Choice,’ consists of little more than scare tactics and shaming students who choose to have sex,” FFRF asserted.
“The program’s activities suggest that sexually active teens are dirty, particularly those who have had more than one partner, suggesting that virtually all of them will contract an STD while apparently offering no information that any activity other than total abstinence can decrease the chance of pregnancy or contracting an STD,” it griped.
FFRF likewise noted that the organization only hires Christians, which it called a form of discrimination, and expressed concern that Thrive might be promoting religion to students.
“There is significant risk that Thrive’s curriculum will promote religion to students, given Thrive’s overt religious mission regarding sex and pregnancy, the Best Choice program’s promotion of spirituality, and Thrive’s requirement that its employees be practicing Christians who ‘share the love of Jesus’ with patients,” it wrote.
The church-state separation group is therefore asking that schools do not allow Thrive to teach sex ed in the future.
“If the district wishes to use sex education instructors or curriculum designers who are not district employees, they should be medical professionals, not members of a faith-based anti-abortion ministry,” FFRF contended.
According to reports, a few school districts in the St. Louis area have recently dropped Thrive after a handful of parents complained that the group was teaching abstinence to students.
“What I would really like to see is a curriculum that is sex-positive instead of being all about shame,” parent Caleb Friz told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It should be out in the open: this is normal, this is part of our bodies and let’s talk about this. It’s an important part of being a human being.”
But parent Michelle Butler said she appreciates that the organization is encouraging students to save sex for marriage.
“It presents thorough content about STDs and risky behaviors, and talks a lot about healthy boundaries in relationships,” she said. “It talks about the emotional consequences to sex and not just the physical consequences.”
Thrive President Bridget Van Means opined that the organization is being discriminated against because of its faith.
“These individuals have started, from the beginning, assuming that because we are faith-based, we have no place in schools,” she said. “Discrimination and prejudice cuts both ways.”
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 reads, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication. That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor; not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God.”