Featured Profile

Rev. Debra W. Haffner
Executive Director
Religious Institute

The Reverend Debra W. Haffner is Co-founder and Executive Director of the Religious Institute. An ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, she is the endorsed community minister with the Unitarian Church in Westport, CT.

Rev. Haffner was the chief executive officer of SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, from 1988 through May 2000. Under her leadership, SIECUS tripled in staff, increased annual budget revenues more than six-fold, and opened professional offices in New York and Washington, DC. During her tenure at SIECUS, she created the Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing; the National Coalition to Support Sexuality Education; the Commission on Adolescent Sexual Health; and the Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education, Kindergarten - Grade Twelve. Prior to joining SIECUS, she served as the Director of Education for the Center for Population Options; the Director of Community Services for Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington; and Special Assistant in the U.S. Public Health Service.

Rev. Haffner is the author of three guides for congregations on sexuality as well as two award-winning books for parents: From Diapers to Dating: A Parent's Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Children, called by Kirkus Review "the very best kind of guide for being a better parent," and Beyond the Big Talk: Every Parent's Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Teens, which the American Library Association's Booklist says "offers solid advice and resources to parents, who will greatly appreciate her candor." Her most recent book, published in April 2008, is What Every 21st Century Parent Needs to Know: Facing Today's Challenges with Wisdom and Heart.

In addition, Rev. Haffner has co-authored a college sexuality education textbook and published nine chapters in books and encyclopedias, more than 70 articles in professional journals, 14 monographs, and numerous pamphlets for the general public. She has conducted speeches and training workshops in Brazil, Canada, Cuba, Panama, Venezuela, England, Hong Kong, Japan, Israel, New Zealand, Uruguay, Guatemala, Spain and the Netherlands. She has been quoted in the New York Times and the Washington Post, and has appeared on such programs as Nightline, PrimeTime Live, 20/20, Dateline, Crossfire, Good Morning America, Oprah and the Today Show.

Rev. Haffner's work has been honored by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Yale School of Epidemiology and Public Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, the Association for the Advancement of Health Education, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine. She received the Connecticut Sexuality Educator of the Year Award in May 2002 and was inducted into her high school “Wall of Fame” in 2005. In October 2009, she will receive the Unitas Award from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

Rev. Haffner has a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary, a Master of Public Health degree from the Yale University School of Medicine and an undergraduate degree from Wesleyan University. In 1996-97, she was a Research Fellow at the Yale Divinity School. She is also a Fellow of the Society for Adolescent Medicine and a visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary and Yale Divinity School. Rev. Haffner has been married for 25 years and is the proud mother of a 22-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son.

Bio courtesy of the Religious Institute

Recent Contributions by Rev. Debra W. Haffner