Does research support the claim that condom availability doesn't increase activity?
A study released yesterday in the American Journal of Public Health says that condom availability in high schools increases condom use by sexually active teens. However, this is not the claim that is making headlines today.

The Washington Post headline reads: "Condom programs don't increase likelihood of teen sex, study says."

But did the study really find that to be true?

Susan Blake and colleagues at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., studied a 1995 survey of sexual behavior data from more than 4,000 students attending high schools in Massachusetts. Nine schools in the study made condoms available, while 50 did not.

Researchers say they found that students in schools with condom programs were more likely to use condoms. Those in the other 50 schools tended to use other forms of birth control.

It is logical that when condoms are available, they can be used more. But Blake argues that the study also shows that students in schools with condoms available were slightly less likely to have had sex. The study says 49 percent of students at the schools without condom programs reported sexual activity. Only 42 percent of teens at schools where condoms were available said they had sex.

"The concerns of the small minority of parents who oppose providing condoms or related instruction in schools were not substantiated," wrote Blake in the study results.

But what the study did not look at were the rates of sexual behavior before and after condom programs were introduced into schools. "As the researchers themselves admit, because the study was not designed to examine changes in condom use from pre- to post-program, its findings don't definitively prove the condom availability programs influenced teen sexual behaviors," said a Family Research Council (FRC) press release yesterday.

FRC president Ken Connor says that while the study's facts do not back the claim that condom programs do not increase sexual activity, it does raise a valid concern for sex education practices. "The much more important question is, 'What is the best way to protect teens from contracting sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies?' " Connor said in the press release. "This study did not find condom use helped to prevent teen pregnancy. It found no differences in the pregnancy rate between girls with condom availability programs and those without."

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Marriage and sexual ethics:

Presbyterian Church (USA)

Post-war Iraq:

  • Evangelizing Iraq | The Christian-missionary question (David Klinghoffer, National Review Online)

  • Onward, Christian missionaries | Evangelization in Iraq (William F. Buckley, National Review Online)

  • Speak no evil | The passing of an era in the Episcopal church? (Joyce Milton, National Review Online)

  • Islamic justice taking hold in Baghdad | Clerics fill void with de facto courts, while moving against western influences (The Washington Post)

  • Revisiting the pope's stance on Iraq | Beyond the inconsistencies revealed by an internal Catholic clash between liberal and neoconservative intellectuals, is there anything more to say about the pope's moral leadership in matters of war and peace, and its apparently limited effect? (Peter Steinfels, The New York Times)

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  • Three anti-war nuns prepare to enter prison | Released from jail for the first time in six months, the peace activist nuns are on a whirlwind tour of potluck suppers, doctors' appointments and visits to family and friends (Associated Press)

Life ethics and human rights:

Church life:


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  • Seminary president to leave post | Dr. Thomas W. Gillespie, the president of the Princeton Theological Seminary since 1983, will retire June 30, 2004 (Princeton Packet, N.J.)

  • Keeping faith | At Magdalen College, students reject mainstream America—and the mainstream Catholic church (The Boston Globe)


  • Hollywood gets religion—again | Spiritual undertones of 'Matrix Reloaded' prompt debate, dissension among faithful (The Washington Post/Orlando Sentinel)

  • Bruce Almighty is taking a risk by making light of god's powers | The idea of portraying God as Everyman is nothing new. But by endowing a human being with God's power and couching it as a comedy, Hollywood might be gambling with some delicate theological issues (Religion News Service)

  • Phone calls to God are bedeviling | Switchboards across the country are lighting up with calls to heaven this week, after the hit movie "Bruce Almighty" began broadcasting a seven-digit telephone number for You-Know-Who. (The Chicago Tribune)

  • Would God smite moviegoers who laugh? | Carrey film gets people talking about spirituality (Ventura County Star, Calif.)

  • Sunday's cinema feature: church | Congregations renting theaters (The Washington Post)

  • Playing god | When Morgan Freeman hit the movie screens Friday playing God in Bruce Almighty, he joined a long tradition of wholly holy characters (The Dallas Morning News)

  • God botherer | Atheist Russell T. Davies creates a heavenly miniseries (The Globe & Mail, Toronto)

Politics and law:

  • Evangelist's church spawns Christian political party | Destiny New Zealand's existence has raised questions about the number of Christianity-based political parties (The New Zealand Herald)

  • British churchmen back Mugabe | Anglican and Catholic bishops have refused to denounce the tyranny in Zimbabwe (Peter Oborne, The Spectator, U.K.)

  • Faith-based charities may not be better, study indicates | The study by researchers at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis found no difference between secular and religious programs in job placement rates or starting wages. But clients of faith-based groups worked fewer hours, on average, and were less likely to receive health insurance (The Washington Post)

  • Churches could play key role in fate of tax proposal | Alabama church leaders led opposition to former Gov. Don Siegelman's failed plan for a statewide lottery in 1999 to fund education programs, but Baptist, Methodist and Episcopal organizations have since issued statements supporting reform of Alabama's tax system (Associated Press)

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