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The Utah American Civil Liberties Union has asked the State Board of Education to call off the revision of sex education guides for parents and teachers and to leave moral education aspects out of the guides.

In a Thursday morning news conference, the ACLU said it will forward a letter to the board demanding that an LDS Institute teacher be taken off the job of revising the text to insert moral guidelines. No suit against the board is imminent, said ACLU spokeswoman Michele Parish, "although that is always a possibility."The ACLU asks the board to provide straightforward sex education without the moral overtones. "Most Utahns want accurate sex education information made available to Utah students so they can protect themselves and make responsible life choice," the letter says. "This is not possible if what they are given is church doctrine in its stead." Such sex education materials might include contraception, Parish said. The State Board specifically removed information regarding contraception from the adult guides.

The ACLU also objected to the board's dismissal of a citizen advisory group that had worked on the sex guidelines.

State Office of Education legal counsel Doug Bates, however, said the revision effort is not aimed at promulgating LDS standards, but generally accepted moral values.

Non-LDS clergy also reacted Wednesday to the board's intention to strengthen the abstinence focus of the parent/teacher supplements.

The clergy complained of the board's selection of LDS Institute teacher Wayne Brickey to revise the supplements, saying his selection is a blatant effort to inject LDS doctrine into the guides.

The Salt Lake Council of Churches is not likely to register a formal complaint, but individual clergy are concerned with the issue, said the Rev. Donald Baird, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Salt Lake City. He said many non-LDS clergy believe the State Board is insensitive to the opinions of non-LDS religious leaders. The council raised objections to the appointment of James R. Moss as state superintendent several years ago and was ignored by the board, said Baird. The council at that time felt Moss' strong ties to the LDS Church through his employment at Brigham Young University would bias his decisions as state superintendent.

He said the council has not officially considered the sex education issue yet. Individual non-LDS church leaders, however, object to the board's selection of Brickey. The selection has the potential for creating an LDS bias in the sex resource guides, he said.

Board Member John M.R. Covey suggested that the board contract with Brickey, an Institute teacher at Utah Valley Community College, to revise the adult resource guides.

Professors from the University of Utah and Utah State University also were considered for the position but were not selected. Because the contract is for $1,800, it did not meet the threshold for competitive bidding. Contracts under $2,000 may be let by the board without bidding, said Douglas Bates, legal/

legislative counsel for the board.

Bates said the contract calls for Brickey to submit his proposed changes on the resource guides in the next few months. The original deadline of a month was extended.

Brickey said the controversy generated by his appointment is inappropriate. Many religions accept common moral standards, and those espoused by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are congruent with the majority, he said.

Bates agreed with Brickey that sexual abstinence outside marriage is a commonly accepted societal and religious moral. Utah laws prohibit sexual activity among unmarried persons, he said.

"If we stop pressing for this ideal, society loses something," said Bates.


(Additional information)

Conflict of interest?

Renewed controversy over state sex education supplements for parents and teachers also has raised the issue of a possible conflict of interest for board member John M.R. Covey. Covey is associated with a Provo firm, Covey and Associates, which sells consultation services and materials aimed at character education.

Covey, who is in Australia, has used his position on the board to advocate strongly for character education. He has filed a notice of his afilliation with Covey and Associates with the attorney general's office. In such instances, actual conflict is determined on a case-by-case basis, attorneys said.

The State Office of Education acknowledged that the state office has purchased $10,445 in Covey and Associates materials or time since 1990.