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Anti-abortion organization seeks to place its curriculum in schools — Satanists say 'OK, us too'

By Jessica Dryden

An anti-abortion organization is working to introduce "healthy relationship education" to students in Cache County.

Leaders from The Center for Pregnancy Choices, a "life-affirming" organization that provides support for individuals facing unexpected pregnancies, said they have been in contact with officials from the Logan and Cache County school districts about enrolling students into their program.

“We rely on God for help, and we have good communication with Logan and Cache County schools,” center director Valerie Byrnes said. “They like the message we offer.”

That message: Relationship Education and Leadership, or REAL, an abstinence-focused curriculum package developed by the Denver-based Center for Relationship Education.

“Lack of healthy relationship education is a problem,” said Katie Harris, a volunteer at the Logan pregnancy center and certified sexual risk avoidance specialist, a designation bestowed upon her by the National Abstinence Education Association. “We feel that if we can educate young people what a healthy relationship looks like, they will be more likely to be aware of an unhealthy situation and hopefully feel like they have the tools and support to get out of that situation.”

The Christian center is an affiliate of Care Net, a 41-year-old network of pro-life pregnancy centers that works to ensure “women and men faced with pregnancy decisions are transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ and empowered to choose life for their unborn children.”

Some students and faculty members were unsure about welcoming the religious women’s health center through Logan High’s doors.

“They sound like they have good intentions, but I sort of hesitate to say I’d support them teaching here," Logan High student Teddy Reeves said. "I don't think religious organizations and public education should mix."

Classmate Aeden Ahbesse agreed.

“Students need to be given all aspects when being educated, Ahbesse said. “They need to remain objective.”

Phil Wade, an English teacher at Logan High School, is hopeful participation in REAL will be voluntary.

“In my view if they’re not pushing things on students, but inviting students and giving people options...students will choose about whether to be a part of it or not.”

Those members of the Logan High learning community aren't the only opponents of REAL.

Chalice Blythe, a self-described Satanic activist and head of the Utah chapter of the Satanic Temple, located in Salt Lake City, is staunchly opposed to any religious organization in a public school.

“When a public forum (in this case, a school) invites this type of organization into the classroom, they are effectively endorsing a particular religious point of view and in the process, harming their students with biased, scare-tactic information,” Blythe wrote in an e-mail. “When children are in school, they are there to learn and trust their educators to present them with the most accurate information available that is free of any skewed presentation or bias.”

The Satanic Temple’s mission is to provide alternatives to curriculum that has religious ties by creating clubs such as After School Satan.

“It is always our preference to maintain the separation of church and state but we also believe that if one voice is being heard, all voices should be heard as well,” Blythe wrote. “All or none.”

Logan school district superintendent Frank Schofield is optimistic REAL’s curriculum can match up with Logan school district standards.

“We admire their desire to teach and we respect their curriculum,” he said. “We have already discussed that any external curriculum needs to align with what is already being taught in our schools.”

Schofield mentioned success REAL has found in other public school districts in the country, and is optimistic the program can find similar success in Logan.

The Center for Pregnancy Choices has asked its supporters in Cache County to help it enroll 100 students into REAL at a cost of $10 per student.