CONDOMS: LIFE SAVERS OR KILLERS?
kill." Statement on a poster by pro-lifers demonstrating in
front of a Red Cross office in Salt Lake City, UT.
real public health question is not are condoms 100% effective, but
rather, how can we more effectively use condoms to help prevent the
spread of disease."
AIDS Research Institute. 1
buy the 'safe sex' lie - it can kill you. The only 'safe sex' is no
sex until marriage. You’re worth it - don’t let anyone tell you
you’re not!" Quoted in "Condoms - Do They Really Work?,"
by AbortionFacts.com 2
are...up to 99.9 percent effective in reducing the risk of STD
transmission when combined with spermicide." SIECUS fact sheet.
Confused? Read on!
Conflicts about condoms
between public health officials and spokespersons for some conservative
Christian organizations flare up from time to time.
In 1987, Surgeon General C.
Everett Koop publicly recommended that people use condoms to prevent the
transmission of HIV, which develops in to AIDS. Some conservative
Christian organizations attacked his stance. Phyllis Schlafly of
Eagle Forum accused him of promoting "safe fornication with
condoms" as "a cover-up for the homosexual community."
Conservative anti-tobacco advocate and a close colleague of Koop
defended the Surgeon General. She said: "I hate to be in a public
debate with Phyllis Schlafly, since we have a lot of things in common.
But she is wrong about Dr. Koop....In everything I've read in Dr. Koop's
written speeches, he stresses monogamy as the first line of defense
against AIDS." 17
The same debate broke out in
early 2002 about the effectiveness of condoms in preventing the
transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
the leading Fundamentalist Christian organizations stated or implied
that condoms are almost completely useless at preventing STD
transmission. This belief was clearly expressed during a
demonstration at Red Cross office in Salt Lake City, UT, during the
2002 Winter Olympics. A pro-life demonstrator held a poster which
said, simply: "Condoms kill."
Public health officials, religious liberals, gays, lesbians, human
sexuality researchers, physicians, STD personnel, etc., strongly
advocate the use of condoms or latex dental dams during sexual
activity. They feel that, properly used, they are effective in
preventing the transmission of STDs.
The debate surfaced in the
media during 2002-FEB because of
a series of events:
- The free
distribution of condoms to visitors and athletes at the 2002 Winter
Olympics, by a coalition of groups, including the Red Cross.
Demonstrations by pro-life and conservative Christian groups against
these two condom distribution programs.
withdrawal of the Red Cross from the coalition.
televised statement by Secretary of State Colin Powell to youths, aged
17 to 25, in which he strongly advocated that:
Young people should remain celibate.
That those who choose to be sexually active use condoms to
prevent the spread of HIV (which leads to AIDS) and other STDs.
by the conservative Christian community to these events.
Diversity of opinion -- an
typically recommend a multi-point process for youth sexual behavior:
School sex-ed classes should only teach about abstinence. They
should not teach that students who engage in sexual activity
before marriage use safer sex techniques, because sexual
activity outside of marriage is immoral.
only acceptable sexual choice for unmarried people is celibacy.
Persons with a heterosexual or bisexual orientation must delay
their first sexual experience until after they are legally
married to a person of the opposite gender.
Homosexuals must remain celibate for life.
If everyone met these
requirements, then the STD threat to young people would essentially
end within a matter of years. Numerous biblical texts, particularly
in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) reinforce this approach.
Paul wrote extensively about remaining celibate until marriage in
some of his epistles.
Adding STD and pregnancy prevention information to school sex-ed
classes sends students a double message -- that they should be
celibate and that they should use condoms during sexual
activity. This results in confusion. If young people are taught that
they can take measures to avoid STDs and pregnancy, then they will
become much more sexually active. They will also initiate their
first sexual activity sooner in life.
In early 2002, some of the larger conservative Christian groups
added a new component to their messages about youth sexual behavior:
that condoms are ineffective at preventing STD transmission. They
feel that access to condoms and to information about condoms will
cause increased sexual activity, because young people will
mistakenly believe that they are protected from pregnancy and STDs.
Since condoms are ineffective at preventing STDs, the result will be
more unwanted pregnancies, more abortions, more STDs, and more
Religious liberals, public health officials, and many others
also promote abstinence as the only totally-reliable method of
avoiding pregnancy and STD infection through sexual behavior. But,
for those youth who have decided to become sexually active, they
recommend the consistent and knowledgeable care and use of condoms.
They note that students are, on average, becoming sexually active at
the age of 15 or 16 in the United States. Some sex-ed classes have
been successful in delaying sexual behavior by many months or up to
two years. However, by the time that they reach college, almost all
youths have been sexually active. By the time of their first
marriage (at age 27 for men and 25 for women), pre-marital sex is
near universal. Over 90% of young people have become sexually
active. 4 Sexually active youth need to know how
to protect themselves against pregnancy and STDs. Otherwise,
pregnancy rates will remain high, and many more young people will
contract STDs. Some STDs, like AIDS, are currently incurable and
Premarital celibacy was certainly promoted by Paul in some of his
epistles. But he was addressing a very different, pre-scientific
society. Today's situation is much different. In first century
CE Palestine, abstinence was of great importance because there
was no effective contraception techniques, no prevention methods for
STDs, no effective medical treatments for any STDs, and the time
interval between puberty and marriage was often measured in months
-- not decades as in today's society.
Surveys have shown that inclusive sex-ed classes do not increase
sexual behavior or encourage teens to become sexually active
earlier. But students are motivated by the knowledge that they gain
in class to make their sexual behavior safer. Easy access to
condoms, and knowledge on how to use them properly, greatly reduce
unwanted pregnancies and STD transmission. The result is
fewer unwanted pregnancies, fewer abortions, fewer STDs, and fewer
It is not unusual for
conservative Christians to take opposite positions from other groups.
This is seen in the conflict
between creation science and evolution,
over the nature of homosexual and bisexual orientation, and
concerning the morality of
physician assisted suicide, etc.
Needless to say, groups on
both sides of the condom conflict can cite studies to prove their
Statements by conservative
Christians about condoms:
There appears to be a
consensus among conservative Christian groups that condoms are either
completely ineffective, or are nearly useless at preventing STD
Spokespersons for many groups
responded to the
2002 Winter Olympics condom giveaway, and to Colin Powell speech:
Ruzicka, spokesperson for the Utah Eagle Forum said: "Of
course, [the condom suppliers are] not bothering to tell them that
the majority of the [STDs] out there have nothing to do with whether
you do or do not use a condom." 5
coalition of pro-life groups and Fundamentalist religious
organizations held a series of protests against the condom
distribution in Salt Lake City. Two demonstrations were held at the
Greater Salt Lake Area chapter of the American Red Cross.
6 One of the pro-life posers read:
Dobson, president and founder of the Fundamentalist Christian group
Focus on the Family severely criticized Secretary of State
Colin Powell for his recommendation to youth on an MTV program that
if they are sexually active, they should use condoms. Dobson seems
to have equated his knowledge to that of the Secretary of Health. He
commented: "Colin Powell is the secretary of state, not the
secretary of health. He is talking about a subject he doesn't
understand. He clearly doesn't understand the science regarding
condom efficacy... 7,8
Conner, president of the Family Research Council (FRC),
stated that Powell's comments were "reckless and irresponsible."
9 In a mailing to "Friends of Family Research
Council" on 2002-FEB-15, Conner said: "Colin Powell is a
respected role model. His irresponsible remarks could lead millions
of young people to believe that condoms protect against STDs. They
do not...Telling young people they can engage in sexual conduct and
avoid STDs by using condoms is like throwing someone a life
preserver in a tidal wave." 10 Two days later,
Conner seems to have slightly backed away from his earlier statement
that implied that condoms were totally useless and ineffective. He
wrote that "There are several sexually transmitted diseases
condoms don't protect against." This would imply that condoms
are effective protection against most STDs. He continued: "Secretary
Powell, is promoting the lie that condoms 'protect' young people,
giving them a false sense of security when they engage in
life-threatening sexual behavior." 11
2002-FEB-20, Concerned Women for America (CWA) posted an
essay criticizing what they described as Colin Powell's "advocacy
of condom use by teenagers and tacit approval of pre-marital sex for
teenagers." The CWA president, Sandy Rios, commented: "Last
year, an NIH study on condoms showed that condoms were not found to
provide universal protection from any of the eight sexually
transmitted diseases (STD) tested, including, HIV, gonorrhea,
chlamydia, syphilis, chancroid, trichomoniasis, genital herpes, and
human papilloma virus (HPV)." 12 It is unclear
what CWA means by the term "universal protection." It is
generally acknowledged that condoms are not perfect; they do have a
small failure rate. In particular, HPV can be passed between sexual
partners even if a condom is worn. This is because HPV can rarely
infect areas of the skin not covered by a condom.
Some Christian web sites have
criticized the effectiveness of condoms since long before the 2002
Winter Games and Colin Powell events:
conservative Christian from Australia, identified only by his Email
wrote on his web site that: "Condoms are made from latex which
comes from a tree. Look at it under a microscope and you will see it
has pores. These pores are significantly larger than the AIDS virus.
Have you ever heard the saying 'You could drive a truck through it?'
" 13 (This Email is in error. There is no such
thing as the AIDS virus. It is the HIV virus which is easily passed
if a condom is not used; HIV leads to AIDS.
"AbortionFacts.com" states that: "In one test, 33% (1/3)
of the latex condoms leaked HIV sized particles!" Also,
"...the breakage and slip off rate during use is so high [that] it
makes condoms ineffective for protection against HIV." 2
has an essay which includes selected physicians' quotes about
Robert Renfield, chief of retro-viral research, Walter Reed Army
Institute: "Simply put, condoms fail. And condoms fail at a
rate unacceptable for me as a physician to endorse them as a
strategy to be promoted as meaningful AIDS protection."
Andre Lafrance, Canadian physician and researcher: "Relying
on condoms for 'protection' can mean lifelong disease,
suffering, and even death for you or for someone you love."
Teresa Crenshaw, member of the U.S. Presidential AIDS Commission
and past president of the American Association of Sex Educators:
"Saying that the use of condoms is 'safe sex' is in fact
playing Russian roulette. A lot of people will die in this
dangerous game." 14
The assault by some Christian
web sites on the effectiveness of condoms has continued, after the 2002
Winter Games and Colin Powell events:
on the Family, a Fundamentalist Christian organization, reported
that Rep. Dave Weldon, MD, (R-FL) said that condoms do virtually
nothing to stop the spread of the human papilloma virus. 18
Wildmon, spokesperson for the American Family Association,
said: "We can't say 'Use condoms to prevent AIDS,' because
condoms don't work." We need to communicate to the culture and to
the world that biblical morality with respect to human sexuality is
really the only true way to go to prevent disease." 19
Statements by public health
groups about condoms:
One would almost think that
public health groups and conservative Christians live in separate
universes. Among the former, a consensus exists that condoms are
essential in the prevention of STD transmission, among sexually active
Society for Human Sexuality says: "The single most effective
thing you can do to stay healthy while being sexually active is to
use latex condoms for intercourse (whether vaginal or anal)."
Williams College in Williamstown Massachusetts informs fellow
along with dental dams, provide the best protection, save for
abstinence, against sexually transmitted diseases including HIV."
are highly effective when used in conjunction with another form
of contraception, such as spermicidal foam, cream, jelly,
sponge, or diaphragm."
used with spermicide, latex not only blocks sperm and STD
transmission, it kills both sperm and, at least in the
laboratory, some STDs." 16
AIDS Research Institute
states that: "Using
condoms can reduce the risk of infection of sexually transmitted
diseases (STDs), including HIV, for those people who are not
abstinent....The real public health question is not are condoms 100%
effective, but rather, how can we more effectively use condoms to
help prevent the spread of disease." 1
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States
(SIECUS) states that: "Condoms are...up to 99.9 percent effective
in reducing the risk of STD transmission when combined with
condoms work?," Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, AIDS Research
- Do They Really Work?," AbortionFacts.com at:
Sheets: The Truth About Latex Condoms," SIECUS, 1998-OCT-NOV, at:
figures quoted in a PBS essay at:
Shepard, "Olympic Condom Giveaway Decried," Focus on the
Family, 2002-FEB-11, at:
- Mary Pat
Flaherty & Gilbert Gaul, "Red Cross Quits AIDS Effort: Abortion
Foes Protested Condom Distribution at Olympics," Washington Post,
2002-FEB-22, Page D12.
Winn, "Powell pushes condoms to youth," Focus on the Family,
Addresses Condom Effectiveness," 2002-FEB-24, Focus on the Family,
backs condom comments," Associated Press,
Connor, "Powell's Reckless Remarks Put Young Lives at Risk,"
Family Research Council's Washington Update to "Friends of Family
Research Council." 2002-FEB-15
Connor, "Safe-Sex "Pow-Wow!" Sends Mixed Messages to Public,"
Family Research Council's Washington Update to "Friends of Family
Research Council." 2002-FEB-18.
Should Retract His Comments on Condoms," Concerned Women for
America (CWA). 2002-FEB-20
and Stuff: Sexually Transmitted Diseases," at:
Warnings -- Beware!!!: Doctors speak out about condom failures!,"
Pro-Life America, at:
to Safer Sex (Concise)," Society for Human Sexuality, at:
& Sexuality: Condoms and Dental Dams," Peer Health, Williams
the Koop: A surgeon general's reputation on the line," PrWatch.org,
Kellogg, "Lawmaker Targets Cervical Cancer," Focus on the
Family, 2002-MAR-20, at:
Brody, "CDC: Many AIDS Carriers Unaware They Carry Virus,"
Focus on the Family, 2002-JUL-10, at:
Copyright © 2002 to 2004 incl., by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2002-FEB-26
Latest update: 2004-AUG-06
Author: B.A. Robinson