Religious Influence in Policy-Making: a Case of Sexual Education in Lithuania
The Lithuanian Ministry of Education adopted the sexual education and preparation for family life policy in 2016. Policy formulation stage became the centre of the conflict between secular reproductive health and sex education activists and religious civil society organizations as well as Lithuanian Catholic Church which exerts its informal political power and utilizes institutional opportunity structures in various stages of policy-making. These groups clashed not only in the chambers of the Lithuanian Parliament, but also in the media. Competing discourses were created and maintained in various public spaces. Non-governmental human rights organizations have tried to counter the discourse of oppositional conservative and religious political actors and actively participated in policy formulation, but these attempts did not prevent the Ministry of Education from adopting a family and abstinence-oriented sex education which favours religious values. This paper seeks to understand religious influence in sexual education policy formation in Lithuania. I utilize public media reports and anonymous in-depth interviews with various relevant actors involved. This case study also enriches theoretical literature on informal institutions and institutional opportunity structures in relation to religious actors influence in morality policy-making.