Pro-Abortion Law Firm Challenges Abstinence Education Program

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 17, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Abortion Law Firm Challenges Abstinence Education Program Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 17, 2005

Washington, DC ( — The ACLU, a leading abortion advocacy law firm, filed a lawsuit on Monday challenging the federal government’s role in funding an abstinence education campaign that it claims is too much of a Christian group. The firm says that violates the First Amendment.

The ACLU is targeting the Silver Ring Thing campaign that relies on music and comedy skits to encourage teenagers to abstain from sexual relations. Students involved in the program wear a silver ring symbolizing their decision to abstain.

The program, which has held events in dozens of cities across the country, has received grants totally more than $1 million from the Department of Health and Human Services as part of President Bush’s abstinence education initiatives.

Thousands of religious groups and charities receive money from the federal government — authorized if they do not use it to promote religion.

However, the ACLU lawsuit, filed in Boston, alleges that the Silver Ring Thing campaign has used the money to encourage people to believe in Jesus Christ instead of promoting abstinence.

"The courts have repeatedly said taxpayer dollars cannot be used to promote religion,” Julie Sternberg, an attorney with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, told the Associated Press. "The Silver Ring Thing blatantly violates this principle.”

Chris Downing, a Health and Human Services spokesman, told AP that the department doesn’t comment on litigation.

Denny Pattyn, founder and president of the abstinence group, said in a statement that the group is faith based but does not use federal dollars to promote religion.

Since 1997, the federal government has spent more than $700 million taxpayer dollars on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. This year an additional $39 million was proposed for fiscal year 2006, which would bring the total federal dollars spent on these programs per year to $206 million.

The lawsuit names HHS officials, and not Silver Ring Thing as the defendant. The case is ACLU of Massachusetts v. Leavitt and was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

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