Christian Group's Sex Education Class Presents First Amendment Concerns, Says Watchdog Group

January 22, 2003

A public school district in California has allowed an evangelical Christian group to operate a sex education program in several of the district's middle schools sparking a complaint from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Late last year, a Pine Hollow Middle School parent complained to Mt. Diablo Unified School District officials about the anti-abortion information her son had received from the "CryBabies" hour-a-day course, which was presented during science class. According to a Jan.13 Los Angeles Times article, the mother's son did not receive a grade from the course, but was provided a stamp of a dove bearing the inscription, "You are loved."

The CryBabies class is a creation of First Resort, a California-based Christian pregnancy-counseling group. First Resort's founder Shari Plunkett told the evangelical magazine, Christianity Today, that her organization was founded to rid the Bay area of abortions. She also told the magazine that First Resort is a Christian organization. "In everything we do we are exhibiting Christian principles," Plunkett said.

AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn said the public schools are not forums for Christian advocacy and warned that school officials are seemingly flouting the First Amendment principle of church-state separation.

"First Resort's class is laden with religious overtones," Lynn said. "The Mt. Diablo school district is undermining its students' education by subjecting them to First Resort's rhetoric. This is a far cry from being a comprehensive sex education program."

On Jan. 21, AU's legal department sent a letter to the president and superintendent of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District urging officials to closely monitor CryBabies instructors to ensure that proselytizing does not occur.

"Given the overtly religious perspective of First Resort (its own instructors call the group a 'Christian organization'), and the fact that its curriculum is tailored to comport with religious doctrine, we have grave constitutional concerns about the implementation of the CryBabies program in the Mount Diablo schools," wrote AU attorneys Ayesha Khan and Kerry Kornblatt Jowers.

School district officials have defended First Resort's work, but announced a task force would be created in January to review the district's sex education programs.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.