Landmark state legislation altering the Christian fabric of society drove one group of moms to assemble and equip themselves to become Catholic activists.
Parents of the Catholic community disheartened by a series of counter-Christianity bills passed during the legislative session this year formed a group at St. Mary Parish in Littleton to be more informed and active in public life.
“Right after the election I just knew so many people who seemed to have lost hope,” said Jennifer Hehn, a mom from St. Mary. “I just didn’t want to fall into that myself.”
Last month, she decided to gather everyone she knew after further attacks on marriage, freedom of religion and sex education hit the state level.
“I sent out an email to as many women I knew might be interested in getting together and talking about the issues and encouraging each other to take some action despite whatever is coming our way,” she said.
The group had their third meeting May 20, each one centered on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s call to political action called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.”
One issue they discussed is “comprehensive sex education,” passed by the Legislature under House Bill 1081. To become law, Gov. John Hickenlooper must sign it by June 7.
Natalie Hattenbach, a mom of three from St. Mary’s, delved into the bill and was shocked by what she found.
The bill regulates sexuality education in Colorado’s public schools, including a provision
to create federally funded grant programs for schools to implement new curriculum.
The Colorado Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s three Catholic dioceses, said the bill would compromise local school districts’ separate abilities to determine their own standards.
“I think it’s shocking it’s passed,” said director Jenny Kraska. “It was an underhanded piece of legislation to begin with. It takes a decision that should have been made by parents and local school districts
and puts it into the hands of the state government—and it’s not right.”
The legislation does not apply to parochial schools.
“The sex education bill that recently passed this session will not apply to Catholic schools since our schools area ministry of parishes and, thankfully, are exempted from this type of legislation that disrespects the dignity of the human person,” said Richard Thompson, superintendent of the Denver Archdiocese’s Catholic schools. “In Catholic schools our formation in this area is to reverence the gift of sexuality and challenge students to live in a way worthy of our dignity as human persons. Our emphasis is upon chastity— living the gift of sexuality according to God’s design rather than the state’s.”
The legislation prohibits federal funds from going to abstinence- only programs. Currently, public schools are not required to offer sexual education nor discuss contraception, sexually transmitted diseases or HIV/AIDS.
This bill creates an automatic enrollment for students unless parents actively remove their children. Parents need to ask their school districts how to opt-out.
“I’m offended because I’m the best person to educate my children,” Hattenbach said. “And I’m worried because the more that the government gets involved in my parenting, the more they’re taking away the influence I have over my children.”
Many find the legislation morally offensive.
The Colorado bill, and many similar pieces of legislation across the nation, mandates “comprehensive sex education.”
Hattenback told the Denver Catholic Register that more than a curriculum, “comprehensive sex education” is a “movement” that aggressively seeks to introduce sexually-explicit material into courses and extensive instruction on contraception, sex acts and homosexual activity.
A January 2012 report by the National Sexuality Education Standards for kindergarten through 12th grade outlined the content and skills schools should adopt in order to adequately teach “comprehensive sexual education.”
Such standards include teaching fifth-graders definitions of sexual orientation and 12th-graders fluency in using a condom correctly.
Among the advisors to the committee were representatives of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS).
The organizations themselves outline “comprehensive sex-education” curricula that dedicate 28 percent of material to promoting contraception, 24 percent to HIV/STD awareness and 4 percent to abstinence, according to a study by the Heritage Foundation.
Eight of the nine curricula the foundation reviewed included condom demonstrations and practice. The Be Proud! Be Responsible! organization instructed teachers, “Give each participant a condom and lubricant. Each participant should practice putting condoms on their fingers. Then let them give you a demonstration.”
Other material for children as young as 12 advocated condom hunts, field trips to stores to survey and practice purchasing; condom games, races to put condoms on models while talking about stages of intercourse; and teaching children to actively seek access to emergency contraception, and to petition or protest a health center if easy, immediate access is not offered.
When discussing abstinence, Focus on Kids, another organization with a “comprehensive sex education” curriculum, advised, “When discussing ‘don’t have sex,’ be sure to help youth identify other options, such as finding fun ways to be together that don’t involve sex, or finding different ways to please a partner without sex (e.g. kissing rubbing, mutual masturbation).”
Hattenbach shared the information with the parish group, wrote a letter to the governor and met with her state representative.
“I think when you’re talking about ‘comprehensive sex education’, you’re talking about cultural change,” she said.
The group hopes to have a more prominent voice.
“We’re just average, normal moms trying to figure out the system, and how we can have the most impact,” she said.