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After the Wrath of GodAIDS, Sexuality, and American Religion$
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Anthony M. Petro

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199391288

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199391288.001.0001

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Governing Authority

Governing Authority

The Surgeon General and the Moral Politics of Public Health

Chapter:
(p.53) Chapter Two Governing Authority
Source:
After the Wrath of God
Author(s):

Anthony M. Petro

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199391288.003.0003

This chapter demonstrates the religious and moral languages employed in the first major national AIDS education campaign. It narrates the leading role of America’s celebrity surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, an evangelical pro-life activist appointed by President Ronald Reagan. This chapter demonstrates how government actors debated moral, and even religious, approaches to public health and sex education. Surgeon General Koop’s statements and published works about the best way to handle the AIDS crisis, and the reaction those publications received from religious and political parties, set the tone for future government approaches. Indeed, through Koop’s national AIDS campaign, they advanced a specific moral politics of public health and sexuality privileging abstinence and monogamy, an approach that reached nearly every American household and laid the groundwork for later sex education programs.

Keywords:   public health, Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, Ronald Reagan, culture wars

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