The Reverend Debra W. Haffner is Co-founder and President of Religious Institute, Inc. An ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, she is also 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 several 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,” and What Every 21st Century Parent Needs to Know: Facing Today’s Challenges with Wisdom and Heart. Her most recent book is Meditations on the Good News: Reading the Bible for Today.
In addition, Rev. Haffner has co-authored a college sexuality education textbook, a book for adults on sexual enrichment, and published ten 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, Scotland, Spain and the Netherlands. She is 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. She blogs regularly for the Washington Post, Huffington Post, CNN.com, and RH Reality Check.
Rev. Haffner’s work has been honored by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, 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. She has received the highest alumni awards from both of her graduate schools: the Distinguished Service Award from the Yale School of Epidemiology and Public Health and the Unitas Award from Union Theological Seminary. In May 2011, Widener University presented her with a Doctor of Public Service, h.c. at their commencement.
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 a past Fellow of the Society for Adolescent Medicine and a visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary, Pacific School of Religion, and Yale Divinity School. Rev. Haffner has been married for over 30 years and is the proud mother of two young adult children.