Abstinence Addicts

North Carolina’s Duggar-Approved Sex Ed

The anti-gay, pro-life Focus on the Family may soon be crafting conservative sex ed curricula for North Carolina's public schools.

09.17.15 6:09 PM ET

An anti-gay, pro-life, Duggar-approved organization might soon set sexual education standards for North Carolina’s public schools.

Under a new North Carolina bill, sex ed curricula would no longer require approval from a certified sexual health educator. The legislation, which passed North Carolina’s House of Representatives on Wednesday, will allow religious organizations to approve sex ed curricula for public schools. And some North Carolina politicians know exactly which religious organization they want in their classrooms.

Focus on the Family, a controversial Christian group, is state Representative Chris Whitmire’s prefered sex ed purveyor.

The group’s abstinence-only education sees limited circulation in North Carolina, due to a law that requires all sex ed curricula to be reviewed by certified sexual health educators. This requirement “has been narrowly tailored and precluded many subject matter experts from imparting their perspectives into this important subject matter,” Whitmire told The Daily Beast.

The sexual health educators who review curricula are also “eccentric,” he told WRAL.

But Focus on the Family, which Whitmire has repeatedly endorsed as a “value-based” education, has eccentricities of its own. The group is fiercely anti-gay, offering a series of “Leaving Homosexuality” conversion literature, and donating widely to politicians who oppose gay marriage. In 1998, the group founded Love Won Out, a church focused on gay conversions. In 2009, Juan Ovalle, a Focus member who narrated the group’s Bible CDs, was arrested for soliciting sex with a minor. In 2011, the group was accused of mischaracterizing a study on LGBT parents during a congressional hearing.

The Duggars, the conservative Christian family whose TLC show 19 Kids And Counting was cancelled this summer after molestation allegations, are also big Focus on the Family fans.

Few Focus officials, if any, could claim to be certified sexual health educators. But North Carolina’s proposed rule change would allow experts in “adolescent psychology, behavioral counseling, medicine, human anatomy, biology, ethics, or health education” to determine sex-ed curricula. These expanded restrictions would allow Focus on the Family and other religious groups to push their programs in public schools.

"The stated intent of the bill’s supporters was to open the doors to ideological groups like Focus on the Family [and] their leader James Dobson, who is in fact a child psychologist,” Elizabeth Finley, communications director for sexual health group SHIFT NC, told The Daily Beast. “Presumably a behavioral counselor offering LGBT conversion therapy or someone from a crisis pregnancy center who does health education would claim to qualify.”

The bill has seen some opposition in its home state, chiefly from state Democrats and sexual health advocates like SHIFT NC. But Finley worries that the bill was introduced too late, and has gathered too much political momentum to be stopped—and Whitmire argues that most of the opposition has been manufactured.

“Some tried to make this a controversial topic, but a 108-2 vote reflects near unanimous bipartisan support,” Whitmire said.

The bill passed the state’s Republican-led House one day after clearing the House Rules committee, and is expected to pass in the state’s Republican-led Senate, with final approval from Republican Governor Pat McRory.

“There is resistance to the bill. While it came up fast, we know that parents overwhelmingly want their kids to get fact-based information in sex ed,” Finley said. “All of that aside, this bill is very likely to become law.”