Planned Parenthood’s use of an innocent symbol of childhood faith to advertise free condoms raises serious concerns about the organization’s judgment.
Each year, thousands of Latter-day Saint children around the globe enter Sunday School programs titled, “Choose the Right,” or simply “CTR.” Cohorts of 4- to 7-year-olds learn about themes like, “I Can Choose the Right” and “I Can Make Right Choices” — other lesson titles include “I Can Follow Jesus Christ by Serving Others,” and “I am a Child of God.”
As a token of their classroom experience many children receive an iconic CTR ring, reminding them to make the right choice when faced with a tough decision. Some wear the rings at home or school, and the ring’s gentle reminder has promoted myriad faith-affirming experiences occasionally chronicled in the church’s children-oriented publication, The Friend.
In addition to being a “simple reminder to children to make good choices,” an Associated Press writer observed that the “Choose the Right” shield is “an enduring piece of Mormon culture” and that throughout the ring’s history “large numbers of Mormon children retain a fondness for the rings as adults.”
But this week, the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah decided to slap “CTR” on free condoms. Planned Parenthood is known for advocating abortion rights and promoting safe sex — now, it is also known for sexualizing a religious symbol for children.
For its part, Planned Parenthood claims to have re-appropriated the LDS Church’s trademark as part of a “tongue-in-cheek” campaign that it hoped would, in its own words, “spark open, honest conversations about sex.” The organization has since decided not to hand out the condoms as originally planned and has removed the images from social media. Its intent, according to a statement released Wednesday, was never to offend.
Its actions have sparked questions as to why, in the first place, an institution that purports to serve the public would intentionally prostitute a childhood symbol of faith for the sake of getting giggles and handing out a few extra condoms. Perhaps sensing the oddity of its action, the organization swiftly deleted its initial Facebook post unveiling the new CTR condom only to then make another about-face and repost it a day later with an obligatory public relations statement about sparking “honest conversations.” All this back and forth does not reflect well on its internal decision-making.
Undoubtedly some folks at Planned Parenthood started to grasp that — in their attempt to gain a few chuckles — they inappropriately took the symbol of a childhood program and used it in a sophomoric and sexualized manner. To that end, if Planned Parenthood truly cares about the community it serves, in the future the organization will consider the millions of Latter-day Saint children for whom CTR symbolizes their faith and serves as a powerful heuristic for Christian living.
To be fair, talking about responsible sexuality is an important public service, but the conversation should never veer in a direction that even remotely sexualizes an innocent symbol of childhood faith. This was a juvenile offense in all senses of the phrase, and given the litany of Planned Parenthood’s recent missteps — some of which prompted a campaign to redirect public funds away from the organization — readers may start to wonder when Planned Parenthood will start taking the simple advice it decided to plaster across its condoms.