Ban on free condoms under scrutiny at Boston College

A student sexual health group at the Catholic college has defied a request to cease their distribution of condoms

Topics: Condoms, Sexually Transmitted Infections, sexually transmitted disease, Catholicism, Catholic Church, Sex, sexuality, safe sex, ,

Ban on free condoms under scrutiny at Boston College

Boston College, a private Jesuit university in the tony suburb of Newton, MA., officially bans the distribution of condoms on campus, and the policy has recently caused a considerable amount of friction with a student sexual health group.

After years of operating on campus without incident, the group, Boston College Students for Sexual Health, received a letter in March from the administration, ordering them to stop giving out free condoms and sexual health education kits to students.

According to The New York Times, the letter explained that “the distribution of condoms is not congruent” with the values and traditions of Boston College:

While we understand that you may not be intentionally violating university policy, we do need to advise you that, should we receive any reports that you are, in fact, distributing condoms on campus, the matter would be referred to the student conduct office for disciplinary action by the university.

Following up in an email comment, Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn wrote: “As a Jesuit, Catholic university, there are certain Catholic commitments that we are called to uphold, including the commitment not to publicly distribute condoms on our campus.”

But members of the student sexual health group say they won’t stop distributing condoms.

“Students are going to be having sex regardless, and unless they have the education to know that you need to use a condom every time — for pregnancy prevention, S.T.I. prevention — and unless they have them available, they’re not going to use it,” Lizzie Jekanowski, a senior and the chairwoman of the group, told the Times.

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Should the administration take disciplinary action against the student group, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has offered its assistance. “They don’t have a right to impose their religious beliefs on students or faculty, through threats and intimidation, when those students or faculty are engaged in lawful and constitutionally protected activity,” Carol Rose, the executive director of the A.C.L.U. of Massachusetts, told the Times.

So why keep distributing condoms at a Catholic university in open defiance of school policy? As Jekanowski explained to the Times, her actions may violate the administration’s rules, but are in keeping with her core Catholic values: “It harkens to a much deeper Catholic morality of caring for your neighbor — and that’s literally what we’re doing, is caring for our neighbors.”

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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