Ref. 90, Sex, Politics Part II
Sex sells. Talk of sex gets people's attention, and, seeded with enough misinformation, it will surely rile up some folks--and the riled will vote in greater numbers.
Referendum 90 (Ref. 90) seeks to repeal the Washington State mandate to provide comprehensive sexual health education in Washington State public schools (See Ref. 90, Sex, Politics, and Religion, Part I). Last week its politicians turned in a record number of signatures to the Secretary of State before the deadline. This should come as no surprise. Two Republicans, both legislative hopefuls, sensed opportunity and filed the paperwork for Referendums 90 and 91 (91 was later subsumed by 90) two weeks before Governor Inslee even signed the bill into law (See P.S. below).
Mindie Wirth, the filer of Referendum 90, is a "Senior Program Manager at Microsoft" and recent Republican candidate for the Washington State legislature. She understands politics, knows how to run a campaign, is apparently well connected in highly conservative churches, and understands the value of websites and flashy presentations. Deprived of large gatherings at which to gather signatures, "Signing events" in Spokane were mostly held through highly conservative church organizations (LDS, Assemblies of God, Mt. Saint Michaels, several Baptist churches, and one Roman Catholic Church, Lourdes) and a few businesses (including the Mariupol Bakery, and Ron's Drive In).
Have any of the excited signers actually read the law itself? The backers of Referendum 90 seem to be counting on people NOT reading it, but, instead, to accept the breathless and deceitful assessment they're spreading. (Read the actual law here and/or the definition of Comprehensive Sexual Health Education in the P.P.S. below) Look forward to a barrage of misinformation all the way to November.
Allow me a couple of examples:
1) "Affirmative consent" used in the preamble of the law is defined in Sec. 1 (11) as "a conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity as a requirement before sexual activity." The point is to equip students to understand what sexual activity is and to empower them to refuse such activity. Obviously, what sexual activity is discussed is tailored to the age of the child. In the case of an altar boy, that might include understanding what a sexual advance by a priest might look like and empower the boy to refuse it.
It is with a great deal of irony that I watched Bishop Daniel Muggenborg's video posted to Mindie Wirth's Facebook page on May 24th at 11:40PM. In that video the (presumably) celibate bishop (at 2m30s in the video), obviously reading off a teleprompter, stumbles through, "The law requires affirmative consent curriculum. What that means is 'a conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity as a requirement before sexual activity.' This requirement is not in accordance with church teaching that sexual activity be something properly and fully expressed in the context of marriage. This idea of (pause) of a, a, affirmative consent curriculum should not be presented to children in grade school and middle school settings." My head spins. In the context of the Roman Catholic Church in this day and age, middle school students shouldn't be taught they have the power to recognize refuse unwanted sexual activity? Really?
2) They are well organized. It takes knowhow to put together a flashy website or make a video, but it isn't costly. Here are just a few to visit to study their misinformation and twisted intent:
Informed Parents of Washington, Parents for Safe Schools, The Family Policy Institute. There is a certain circularity. On the Parents for Safe Schools website "Our Coalition" listed ten entities, three of which are the Washington State Republican Party and the House and Senate Republican Caucuses. I cannot now locate it, but as a retired physician, I was startled to see on one of these websites the endorsement of the "American College of Pediatricians"--that is, until I looked them up. They sound like an authoritative group, but they are a "socially conservative advocacy group" of 500 members, NOT the American Academy of Pediatrics, the professional organization of 54,000 members that favors sexual education--but doesn't hatch and maintain single-issue websites.
It makes me angry that these few well-organized reactionaries allied with the Republican Party are trying to politically benefit by mis-representing to the public one of their favorite hot-button issues. Familiarize yourself with the law. Push back against those who want to keep altar boys in the dark--and misrepresent the opinions of the majority of medical professionals.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. On March 13, 2020, Mindie Wirth filed Referendum 90 with the Secretary of State, just six days after passage of Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5395 by the Washington State Legislature. On March 12, 2020, the day before Ms. Wirth filed, one Matthew C. Marshall filed a similar Referendum 91. Both Wirth and Marshall are or have been Republican candidates for the Washington State Legislature. Mindie Wirth (R) lost badly (43-57%) in 2016 to Democrat Guy Palumbo in a bid to fill an open WA Senate seat in District 1 (NE of Seattle). Matthew Marshall (R) is in a three-way top-two Primary bid for the WA House seat currently held by WA House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox (R) in District 2-Position 2 (just east of Olympia). Wilcox has served in the WA House since election in 2010. Marshall is running from the far right. His campaign slogan is "Restoring Liberty--Let's Drain the Evergreen Swamp."
The banner on his website reads: "Protect Our Children & Repeal Comprehensive Sex Ed." I equate that with "Keep our children in the dark."
P.P.S. The law, passed as ENGROSSED SUBSTITUTE SENATE BILL 5395 was passed by the State Senate on March 7, 27 Ayes 21 Nays and the House on March 4, 56 Ayes to 40 Nays. Governor Inslee signed it March 27. By clicking the blue link you can read the whole bill in its legal detail. Below is the section from the bill that defines what comprehensive sexual health education is meant to do and to cover. (I have removed the line numbering for ease of reading.)
Comprehensive sexual health education for students in kindergarten through grade three must be instruction in social-emotional learning that is consistent with learning standards and benchmarks adopted by the office of the superintendent of public instruction under RCW 28A.300.478. 37 Comprehensive sexual health education for students in grades four through twelve must include information about: (i) The physiological, psychological, and sociological developmental processes experienced by an individual; (ii) The development of intrapersonal and interpersonal skills to communicate, respectfully and effectively, to reduce health risks, and choose healthy behaviors and relationships that are based on mutual respect and affection, and are free from violence, coercion, and intimidation; (iii) Health care and prevention resources; (iv) The development of meaningful relationships and avoidance of exploitative relationships; (v) Understanding the influences of family, peers, community, and the media throughout life on healthy sexual relationships; and (vi) Affirmative consent and recognizing and responding safely and effectively when violence, or a risk of violence, is or may be present with strategies that include bystander training; (c) "Medically and scientifically accurate" means information that is verified or supported by research in compliance with scientific methods, is published in peer-reviewed journals, where appropriate, and is recognized as accurate and objective by professional organizations and agencies with expertise in the field of sexual health including but not limited to the American college of obstetricians and gynecologists, the Washington state department of health, and the federal centers for disease control and prevention;...
P.P.P.S. I've pasted below one of the screeds about the Comprehensive Sexual Health Education Law. Every single statement is a lie or blatant misrepresentation. Read the law.
ESSB 5395 is a bad law that ignores the needs of both kids and parents.
Mandates graphic sex education starting in elementary school.
Orders school districts to “comprehensively” include sex ed in all curriculum — including math, social studies, science, business and computer classes.
Denies parents and local school boards the power to decide what shall be taught.
Unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats will enforce extreme curriculum in every public school in the state.
Keep the Olympia activists out of our classrooms.
Parents and elected local school boards should be the only people deciding what is taught in our classrooms.