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"Condoms kill." Statement on a poster by pro-lifers demonstrating in front of a Red Cross office in Salt Lake City, UT.

For decades, skirmishes have occurred in many North American public schools over the content of sex education classes. A focal point of conflict has been whether young people should be taught: Either: A comprehensive course that includes: Abstinence, for those who wish to remain celibate and Pregnancy prevention, and the prevention sexually transmitted disease transmission (STD), for those who wish to become sexually active. Or: Abstinence alone. Conflicts over condoms seem to have surfaced early in the 21st century. Many pro-life and Fundamentalist Christian groups actively campaigned and demonstrated both against the distribution of condoms, and against dissemination of information about STD prevention to young people. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood, public health offices, other health organizations, and even the U.S. Secretary of State weighed in on the other side.

Some recent events:
2000-JAN: Life Research Institute pamphlet:

Life Research Institute of Concord CA distributes a pamphlet titled: "Sex, Contraception, Disease and YOU." It says that sexual activity almost inevitably leads to disease: "Former U.S. Surgeon General Everett Koop said, 'When you have sex with someone, you are having sex with everyone they have had sex with for the last ten years, and everyone they and their partners have had sex with for the last ten years.' Therefore, it is extremely likely that you will get a sexually transmitted disease (STD)...." "BUT even the condom is very poor protection. Even when a promise to use one is kept, they deteriorate before and during use, they leak, and they break. The HIV virus is far smaller than human sperm (1/450th the size) so the virus often passes right through the wall of the condom." 12

2002-FEB-11: UT: Condom giveaway at the Olympics:
A group of organizations, including the American Red Cross, Utah AIDS Foundation and Planned Parenthood, set up a "SafeGames 2002" program to distribute safety-related items to Olympic Games visitors in Salt Lake City, UT. These included: hand warmers; lip balm; glow sticks; cards with telephone numbers for emergency services, taxis and ticket services; and 250,000 condoms. Meanwhile, the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee distributed 12,000 free condoms to 2,400 Olympic athletes. Both programs were condemned by a variety of religious organizations and pro-life groups. Some developments -- all related to the condoms -- were: Gayle Ruzicka, spokesperson for the Utah Eagle Forum said: "They're sending a very unhealthy message, as well as a very immoral message...Of course, [the suppliers are] not bothering to tell them that the majority of the [sexually transmitted diseases] out there have nothing to do with whether you do or do not use a condom." 1 Patrick Fagan, spokesperson for the Heritage Foundation, linked pre-marital sex with marriage failure. He said "Here we have some of the finest blossoms of youth, of athletes at their peak performance. There are people who want to lead them in a direction that the body was never meant to go. They're sowing the seeds for fragile marital relations and they're sowing the seeds for potential divorce." 1 A coalition of pro-life groups and Fundamentalist religious organizations held a series of protests against the condom distribution in Salt Lake City. Two demonstrations were held at the Greater Salt Lake Area chapter of the American Red Cross. 2 The local Red Cross office objected to what it called "the circus-like approach" of some SafeGames 2002 volunteers. They ended their participation in the program. Spokesperson Susan Sheehan said that the demonstrations in front of her office "had nothing to do with it." 2 Stan Penfold, a spokesman for the Utah AIDS Foundation stated that boxes containing about 10,000 condoms "went missing" from some SafeGames locations. Piles of condoms were later dumped at the front door of the Foundation office. The Washington Post obtained an internal Red Cross staff note which said that the SafeGames "coalition's tactics at the Games are not consistent with the Red Cross approach to HIV/AIDS prevention education." Allegedly, out of the 100,000 condoms

distributed to date, one involved a volunteer tossing a packet at a local community leader, and another resulted in a teenage woman receiving an unsolicited condom; it is not known whether she was an adult. Luciano Colonna, a co-founder of SafeGames said: "It's my feeling Red Cross gave in to the pressure from protesters. The responses we've had about our volunteers have been very positive...the American Red Cross trained them, and did a good job in training." 2 The SafeGames program was apparently be unaffected by the Red Cross' pullout. Volunteer schedules had already been set. Other functions were be picked up by the remaining groups. 2

2002-FEB-14: World: Colin Powell recommends use of condoms:
MTV -- a cable channel directed at youth aged 17 to 25, conducted a "global forum" involving teenagers in seven cities around the world. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell took part. He discussed many different questions asked by a number of teens from those cities. At one point, in response to a Roman Catholic young woman from Milan, Italy, he allegedly said that countries had to "forget about conservative ideas" about sex in order to effectively combat the spread of AIDS. He said: "I believe condoms are part of the solution to the HIV-AIDS crisis and I encourage their use by our young people who are sexually active." 3 Powell continued: "It's important that the whole international community come together, speak candidly about it, forget about taboos, forget about conservative ideas with respect to what you shouldn't tell young people about. It's the lives of young people who are put at risk by unsafe sex — and, therefore, protect yourself." 3 Some developments -- all related to the topic of condoms -- were: Christian activist Gary Bauer, a former GOP presidential candidate, said that Powell should "follow the lead of the Bush administration which he serves." That administration funds abstinence-only sex-ed courses in public schools, in addition to courses which include abstinence and protection information. 3 James Dobson, president and founder of the Fundamentalist Christian group Focus on the Family commented: "Colin Powell is the secretary of state, not the secretary of health. He is talking about a subject he doesn't understand. He clearly doesn't understand the science regarding condom efficacy... Secretary Powell's comments directly contradict those of his boss, President Bush, who just proposed a $33 million increase in funding for abstinence-only education in the United States. As one who has distinguished himself in the armed services, surely Mr. Powell must understand the importance of self-control and discipline. These very characteristics are helping to win the war against terrorism. It is these same traits that can keep young people from HIV infection through abstinence." 3 Ken Conner, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), stated that Powell's comments were "reckless and irresponsible" and a "slap in the face" for the president's supporters. 4 In a mailing to "Friends of Family Research Council" on 2002-FEB-15, Conner said: "Colin Powell is a respected role model. His irresponsible remarks could lead millions of young people to believe that condoms protect against STDs. They do not...Telling young people they can engage in sexual conduct and avoid STDs by using condoms is like throwing someone a life preserver in a tidal wave." 6 Two days later, Conner seems to have slightly backed away from

earlier statement that implied that condoms were totally useless and ineffective. He wrote that "There are several sexually transmitted diseases condoms don't protect against." This would imply that condoms are effective protection against the vast majority of STDs. He continued: "Secretary Powell, is promoting the lie that condoms 'protect' young people, giving them a false sense of security when they engage in life-threatening sexual behavior." Commenting on Powell's remarks, White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer said on FEB-14 that the secretary of state had "limited his answer to people who are sexually active," and said his remarks were consistent with Bush administration policy. 3 He also said: "There's, of course, a group of people who are going to be sexually active no matter what anybody in the government, or anybody's family, says about abstinence. The president's point is they both need to be highlighted," -i.e. both abstinence and condoms. 4 He mentioned that the President's budget includes financial support for educational programs that promote abstinence as well as sex-education classes that discuss condom usage. 7 Pete Winn, associate editor of Focus on the Family's CitizenLink service asked readers to: "Contact President Bush and urge him to immediately repudiate Secretary of State Colin Powell's comments encouraging the world's youth to 'forget about conservative ideas' with respect to sex education and to use condoms to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases. Also, please thank President Bush for his recent proposal to increase abstinence [-only] funding by $33 million." 3 They provided President Bush's: Comment line: 202-456-1111, and E-mail address: On FEB-18, during an interview on CNN's Late Edition, Powell defended his earlier statements about condoms on MTV. He said that he had said nothing for which he should apologize. During the interview, Powell said that, in many countries, there is a great need to educate young people about abstinence as well as condom use and being faithful. "But if they are going to be sexually active, we've got to educate them how to protect themselves. And one way to do that is with condoms. And for me to have said anything else would have been irresponsible...And as my daughter told me when I was getting ready for MTV, 'Dad, don't try to snow these kids.' " Joseph Dolman, commentator for wrote: "Someone should give Gen. Colin Powell another bronze star. Last week the secretary of state went on MTV and committed an unabashed act of heroism. He threw himself into the debate over condom use as a way to fight AIDS - and rounds of flak have been flying at his head ever since....He just strongly implied that - if you're going to have sex in the age of AIDS - you're infinitely better off with a condom. Like it or not, this is the unvarnished truth. But here's the awful part as this skirmish in the Great American Culture War plays itself out: The sound and fury erode prevention efforts - at a time when we need them more than ever." 5 conducted a public opinion poll on its web site about Powell's comments. They asked the question: "Powell urges condom use to fight AIDS; [Is it] Good advice?" They offered two alternatives. Sixteen days into the poll, results were: Yes! "If young people choose to have sex, they need to know how to protect themselves. Their lives are at stake." 19,292 votes (57%). No! "His words were reckless and irresponsible. He should promote abstinence, not so-called 'safe sex'." 14,729 votes (43%). will send the final results to both Secretary of State Colin Powell and President George W. Bush. 8 George W. Bush mentioned youth sexuality in two of his speeches:

On 2002-FEB-26, he mentioned: "Abstinence is the surest way and the only completely effective way to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases." On FEB-27, he said: "When our children face a choice between self-restraint and self-destruction, government should not be neutral. Government should not sell children short by assuming they are incapable of acting responsibly. We must promote the good choices." In the latter speech, Bush seems to believe that youth have only two choices: "Self-restraint" (i.e. abstinence) or "Self-destruction" (i.e. engaging in sexual activity). He seems to have discounted the possibility of a third option: engaging in safer sex. Like other conservative Christian information sources, he seems to telling young people that condoms and other method of preventing the transmission of STDs are ineffective. 9

2003-MAR: Campaign to disparage condoms threatens anti-STD programs:
The Alan Guttmacher Institute included an article by Heather Boonstra in the 2003MAR issue of their Guttmacher Report on Public Policy. She wrote: "Critics in the HIV and STD prevention communities worry that the conservative crusade to promote abstinence outside of marriage comes at too high a cost. Undermining people's confidence in the effectiveness of condoms threatens people's health and even lives, they argue, since sex among unmarried people is common in the United States and around the world, and achieving correct and consistent condom use is difficult enough. Moreover, they insist, condom critics are selectively citing and intentionally misrepresenting findings from the NIH workshop report to buttress their case; the conclusion that correct condom use does not offer a high degree of protection against the vast majority of STDs, not to mention HIV and unintended pregnancy, is simply not warranted by the science, they say." 10 The essence of their argument is that if people become convinced that condoms are useless in preventing the transmission of STDs or preventing pregnancy, then they won't bother using them. The end result would then be increased STD, increased pregnancies, more abortions and more deaths.

2003-OCT: Vatican condemns condoms as ineffective against HIV:
Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujilo, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family asked health groups to inform the public of the ineffectiveness of condoms in the prevention of HIV transmission. He said: "The AIDS virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon [and can] easily pass through the 'net' that is formed by the condom. These margins of uncertainty ...should represent an obligation on the part of the health ministries and all these campaigns to act in the same way as they do with cigarettes, which they state to be a danger."

The World Health Organization [WHO] criticized the cardinal's statement as "dangerous" and "incorrect" in the face of "a global pandemic which has already killed more than 20 million people, and currently affects at least 42 million." They argued that "consistent and correct" condom use reduces the risk of HIV transmission by 90 percent and that "intact condoms . . . are essentially impermeable to the smallest STD virus." In other areas of the world: The archbishop of Nairobi, Raphael Ndingi Nzeki, said: "Aids... has grown so fast because of the availability of condoms." The BBC program Panorama broadcast an episode called Sex and the Holy City. It includes a scene in which a Catholic nun advises her HIV-infected choirmaster against using condoms with his wife because "the virus can pass through." Gordon Wambi, director of an AIDS testing center in Lwak near Lake Victoria, said he cannot distribute condoms because of church opposition. He said: "Some priests have even been saying that condoms are laced with HIV/Aids." Panorama found the claims about permeable condoms repeated by Catholics as far apart as Asia and Latin America. 11

2004-AUG: Conflict in STD prevention philosophy in Uganda:
OneWorld United States reported that: A U.S. group, the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) claimed that there was a shortage in condoms in Uganda. They said that Uganda needs between 120 and 150 million condoms per year but only 32 million had been distributed since 2003OCT. On 2005-AUG-29, Stephen Lewis, the U.N. Secretary-General's special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, said that part of the shortage had been caused by the U.S. aid programs reduction in condom funding and increased attention to the promoting of abstinence. He said: ''To impose a dogma-driven policy that is fundamentally flawed is doing damage to Africa.'' CHANGE asserts that the Bush administration and the office of Uganda's first lady, Janet Museveni, have emphasized abstinence and directed money to religious groups who push it to the detriment of the other two components of the country's anti-AIDS platform, known as ABC for ''Abstinence, Be Faithful, and Condoms.'' A CHANGE report states that: ''Religious fundamentalists, some financially supported by the U.S. government and the office of the first lady Janet Museveni, have become prominent in attacking [the use of] condoms and those who distribute them.'' Human Rights Watch (HRW) claims that critical HIV/AIDS information was being removed from school curricula, including information about condoms, safer sex, and the risks of HIV in marriage. Draft secondary-school materials included false statements to the effect that latex condoms were ineffective at blocking HIV and further described pre-marital sex as a form of ''deviance.'' HRW said teachers told its investigators that U.S. contractors had instructed them not to discuss condoms in class because the new policy was ''abstinence only.'' Additionally, Ugandan President

Yoweri Museveni publicly condemned condoms as inappropriate for Ugandans. HRW said that Ugandan public health experts, physicians, and AIDS groups had expressed concern about the current and future consequences of what effectively was proving to be a switch to an abstinence-only program. Contradicting the statements of CHANGE, Mike Mukula, a senior Ugandan health ministry official said: ''We have enough condoms. We just procured 65 million condoms about two months ago and another 80 million is on the way, so there is no shortage of condoms in the country.'' 13

All information is general in nature and is not intended to be used as a substitute for appropriate professional advice.

References used:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today. 1. Stuart Shepard, "Olympic Condom Giveaway Decried," Focus on the Family, 2002-FEB-11, at: 2. Mary Pat Flaherty & Gilbert Gaul, "Red Cross Quits AIDS Effort: Abortion Foes Protested Condom Distribution at Olympics," Washington Post, 2002-FEB-22, Page D12. Online at: 3. Pete Winn, "Powell pushes condoms to youth," Focus on the Family, 2002-FEB15, at: 4. "Powell backs condom comments," Associated Press, at: 5. Joseph Doman, "Powell's MTV comments aren't the problem," 2002-FEB-20, at: 6. Ken Connor, "Powell's Reckless Remarks Put Young Lives at Risk," Family Research Council's Washington Update to "Friends of Family Research Council." 2002-FEB-15 7. Ken Connor, "Safe-Sex "Pow-Wow!" Sends Mixed Messages to Public," Family Research Council's Washington Update to "Friends of Family Research Council." 2002-FEB-18. 8.'s web site is, predictably, at: 9. Ben Taylor, "Dobson Thanks Bush for Abstinence Support," Focus on the Family, at: 10. Heather Boonstra "Public Health Advocates Say Campaign to Disparage Condoms Threatens STD Prevention Efforts," Guttmacher Report on Public Policy, Vol. 6, Nbr. 1, 2003-MAR, at: 11. Steve Bradshaw. "Vatican: Condoms don't stop Aids," Guardian newspaper, 2003OCT-09, at: 12. "Sex, Contraception, Disease and YOU," Life Research Institute, 2000-JAN, at: 13. Abid Aslam, "Uganda Disputes Condom Shortage as U.N. Envoy Blames Bush AIDS Policy," OneWorld US, 2005-AUG-29, at:

Copyright © 2002 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance Originally written: 2002-FEB-21 Latest update: 2006-APR-24 Author: B.A. Robinson