Church leaders: out of touch with their flock on sex?

The position of many conservative churches to sex is "just say no," but do their followers really buy it? Think Progress has an interesting post about how the views of church leaders appears to be out of sync with the practices of the church-goers -- especially women:

The Bush administration has consistently increased funding for abstinence-only groups and public schools across the nation are being forced to push abstinence in sex education classes.

According to Russell Shorto in last week's New York Times Magazine cover story, Contra-Contraception, these developments are a result of right-wing religious leaders' growing influence on politics and public policy. He noted that according to these religious leaders, contraception "encourages sexual promiscuity, sexual deviance (like homosexuality) and a preoccupation with sex that is unhealthful even within marriage."

What Shorto misses is the extent to which Catholics and evangelical Christians themselves use contraception. Here is the latest data:

* 88 percent of Catholic women currently use birth control, roughly the same rate as other Americans. [Catholics for a Free Choice]

* 70 percent of evangelical women are sexually active and don't wish to become pregnant. 90 percent of these women use birth control. [2002 National Survey of Family Growth]

Clearly, these women recognize what their religious leaders do not: that responsible sexual activity is a normal and healthy part of life; that not every sexual act is intended for reproduction; and that preventing unintended pregnancy - by using contraception - is a responsible, moral decision. Now if only our public officials would come to the same conclusion.