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– Religious leaders and AIDS activists told CNSNNews.com Tuesday that labeling sex outside of marriage as sinful or having multiple partners as immoral behavior is “biased” – something society has “moved beyond.”
At a telephone news conference in advance of World AIDS Day, AIDS activist groups and representatives of various religious groups said that counseling teens and others to be abstinent and restricting sex to marriage just isn’t “realistic,” and called on churches and the incoming Obama administration to deal with HIV/AIDS in a “truthful” and “medically accurate way.”
The Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, executive for health and wholeness advocacy in the national offices of the United Church of Christ, said the church should be “nonjudgmental” when it comes to HIV/AIDS – and cited a recent workshop he attended as an example of how the Church should act.
“The young people in that workshop were so grateful that faith leaders were willing to be real with them, create a safe space for them to ask questions – to share their views, experiences and ideas, and to provide them with value-based, medically accurate information, along with the tools for making healthy and responsible decisions,” he said.
The religious leader called on churches and “faith perspectives” not to engage in what he called “stigma” and “discrimination” – and appealed to Christian tradition to make his point.
“(Jesus) sent his disciples out to heal the sick, and he encouraged people of faith to be alert and ready, saying, ‘If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into,’” Schuenemeyer said.
“In terms of HIV, we already know how HIV breaks into the body and robs the immune system of its capacity to respond to disease,” he added. “But too many people, young and old, are not effectively prepared with the information and tools they need to prevent an infection.”
But Schuenemeyer balked when CNSNews.com asked why religious groups shouldn’t label risky behavior the way religion has traditionally regarded it -- as immoral.
CNSNews.com: Let me ask you this: Outside of medical accidents -- like blood transfusions or children born to HIV-positive mothers -- is it possible for an unmarried person to contract HIV without basically someone committing an immoral act?
Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, United Church of Christ: I think your question exemplifies why we are struggling with stigma and discrimination in our culture, because it betrays a bias about what is moral and immoral. So, I think we’ need to take a public health approach; we need to be nonjudgmental when we speak to people and we need to make sure people have accurate information.
Stigma and discrimination keeps people from getting the information that they need. It’s often fear-based. And when people are faced with judgment they don’t get what they need to respond effectively. So I think we need to take much more of a public health approach for their concern.
It’s not about whether people are engaging in moral or immoral acts, that’s a personal judgment that is being made. It’s about realizing what behaviors cause transmission and preventing those behaviors.
CNSNews.com: Isn’t ‘having multiple partners’ one of the major causes or routes for acquiring HIV, and doesn’t your religion label that as promiscuity or immorality? Shouldn’t religions counsel against sexual immorality?
Rev. Schuenemeyer: (No response.)
Read the complete article at CNSNews.com