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Tuesday, February 1, 1994

Camp Directors' Debate

                                                                                                            February, 1994

Dear G.U.C.I. Staff:

About a year ago all of the directors of our U.A.H.C. camps, along with the
leadership staff of our Youth Division engaged in a great debate over the
ethics of supplying our staffs with condoms at camp.  This debate took place at
one of our regular camp director meetings at which we usually discuss more
mundane things like budgets and insurance.  But this was a great "Sicha," in
which I was (also, as usual) on the minority side.  We were deciding camp
policy, so it was an important discussion.  The majority opinion held that
freely supplying condoms at camp, even through the privacy of the Mirpa'ah,
could be perceived in many ways as our encouraging, or at least condoning,
premarital sexual intercourse.  Of course, as a movement, and even as
individuals, that is not our message.  The minority view argued that we should
be realistic and realize that, regardless of message, many of our staff members
are sexually active, that these activities happen at camp, and so we should be
doing all that we can to ensure safe sex is being practiced.  That was my
opinion (along with a few others).  The final policy decision was that condoms
were not to be distributed by the camps.

I have no real argument with the policy.  It is what most felt is appropriate. 
I'm beginning to think that (as hard as this may be to admit) they were right
and I (heaven forbid) was wrong.  For me the issue is less one of image and
perception as it is one of doing what is right.  If we are perceived as being
too liberal (I sometimes am), that's OK.  We should be able to take the heat,
if we believe our actions are moral and "good for our kids."  In this
particular case, though, I am beginning to think that the, "They're going to do
it anyway" argument is secondary and not primary.  I am enclosing an editorial
by Paul Greenberg.  He has opened my eyes to the other side of the issue.  The
primary stance by parents, clergy, movements, etc. must be one that encourages
abstinence instead of reliance on a condom for protection from AIDS.  Please
read this important editorial.  Let me know what you think.  I need to hear
from you on this.

As Greenberg points out, many parents have said to their kids, "Don't drink!
But if you do, call us and we will pick you up."  Have you heard a statement
like that from your folks?  We don't want our kids to drink, but realize that
sometime they may, and the ultimate concern must be for our children's safety
and well-being.  Doesn't this apply to sexual activity as well?  As parents,
shouldn't we be telling our children the truth?  That the ONLY way to be really
safe is to refrain.  That even safe sex isn't completely safe.  That there is
value in the old morality of being with one partner in whom you have complete
confidence and trust.  That your life may be threatened by casual sex. 

Does the camp director have the same responsibility as the parent?  It is clear
to me that the camp director has even greater responsibilities than the
parents.  Why?  Because as leaders of religious institutes, we try to uphold
the highest of principles.  We are bound by the ethical, and can only assume
that our staffs' parents hold just as high an ethical stance.  In this condom
controversy our actions speak much louder than our words.  Yet, like that kid
who is not allowed to drink, but has the safety net of calling home for a ride
if he/she does, our kids should have access to condoms.  Neat dilemma, eh?

For those of us who grew up in the 60's, this sexual dilemma is ironic.  The
ultimate morality isn't changed, but the reasons for it have.  One could
maintain that sexual morality is always going to be high on the ethics hit
parade because it involves such universal values as love, commitment,
responsibility, etc.  But now, the stakes have been raised to the limit.  When
I was a kid, what scared the hell out of us was the realization that premarital
sex meant the possibility of creating a life; now it presents the possibility
of losing one.


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