San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Catholics, evangelicals protest sexual education in Costa Rica schools

An evangelical group in Costa Rica has encouraged Christian followers to file constitutional challenges against a plan to teach sexual education in public schools. So far, Costa Ricans have filed more than 2,500 complaints to the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, the Judicial Branch’s press office said Tuesday.

A statement from the Sala IV said the first appeal arrived on June 26, and that the court has already begun reviewing it, making the other complaints an unnecessary use of resources on the same subject.

Both the Catholic Church and evangelicals have rejected the sexual education lesson plan, which focuses on topics including building self-esteem and ways to prevent pregnancy. In the churches’ opinion the material encourages students to start up sexual relations at a younger age.

Authorities, however, believe this education is essential to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies in Costa Rica, which last year was 13,500. The material also will help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the Education Ministry said.

The Evangelical Alliance, which united the various protesters, threatened to file thousands of legal challenges as a means of exerting pressure so that judicial officials suspend the implementation of the educational program.

“The public should realize that the number of appeals filed on the same subject does not have any influence on the the court and whether the ruling would be favorable or unfavorable,” Sala IV judges responded. “The bottom line is based on criteria recognized by the Constitution, and only one appeal is necessary to decide this issue.”

Several previous administrations have tried to strengthen sex-education programs for children and adolescents in schools, but all have faced pressure from the Catholic Church and other religious groups that consider the topic of sexuality an issue exclusive to homes and churches.

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