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Americans United for Separation of Church and State has joined nearly three dozen national organizations in opposing efforts by the Religious Right to censor sex education classes in public schools.

Thirty-five organizations announced a campaign today to oppose a plan by Congress to reauthorize funding for "abstinence only" education programs. The groups say these programs deny important information to teenagers, promote a religious viewpoint and are often medically inaccurate.

"Religious groups in America have many different views on questions of human sexuality and reproduction," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "For the government to fund only the perspective of one narrow segment of the religious community violates the spirit of church-state separation. Government funds should be used for sound education, not religious indoctrination."

Lynn added, "The major 'abstinence only' curricular materials have been developed by fundamentalist religious groups that oppose contraception and abortion, acknowledge only certain sexual practices as morally appropriate, and hold to outlandish gender stereotypes. The fact that they may not explicitly say that God has issued an 'abstinence only' edict does not eliminate the profound church-state issues here. Taxpayer-funded efforts to exclude evolution in public schools have been found unconstitutional; the same fate may await efforts to exclude accurate and comprehensive information about sexuality."

The campaign is spearheaded by the National Coalition Against Censorship. Other organizations endorsing it include: the National Education Association, Catholics for a Free Choice, the Unitarian Universalist Association, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ and the American Medical Student Association.

Congress first approved funding for "abstinence only" programs in 1996, and the issue is expected to come up for reauthorization soon. Americans United argues that by funding only groups that promote "abstinence only" plans, Congress has favored certain religious groups over others.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization represents 60,000 members and allied houses of worship in all 50 states.

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.