Sex Ed Group Praises Government Suspension of Funds for Abstinence-Only Education

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

( - A sexual education advocacy group praised the federal government's decision to suspend tax dollars to an abstinence-only education program operated by a Christian organization.

The decision by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) follows a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts challenging the use of federal dollars to fund the Silver Ring Thing, which the ACLU said overtly promotes religion.

"By suspending federal taxpayer funds to the Silver Ring Thing, the federal government has made a laudatory initial step," said William Smith, vice president for public policy for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS), in a statement.

Silver Ring Thing (SRT) is an abstinence-only-until-marriage program operated by the John Guest Evangelistic Team, a Christian missionary group.

"For far too long, SRT and other programs like it not only have been promoting religion, but also disseminating medical misinformation to our nation's youth, all at the behest of conservative lawmakers," Smith said.

According to Smith, SRT's program activities "are just the tip of the iceberg in exposing what the federal abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are all about." He said for "far too long," such programs have suffered from a lack of oversight by the federal government.

"It is our hope that the decision to suspend funding to the Silver Ring Thing is the first of many, and that HHS will reexamine its entire portfolio of these unproven, and potentially harmful, programs," said Smith.

SEICUS criticized the SRT program and similar abstinence-only programs for telling young people that condoms are ineffective, promoting "out-dated gender stereotypes," ignoring homosexual youth and including pro-life messages "among other egregious ideologically driven information."

SEICUS claimed that no abstinence-only programs have ever been proven effective, "and in fact, some have been shown to cause harm."

The anti-abstinence group claimed that recent research shows that "virginity pledges, a common component of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, including SRT, significantly undermine contraceptive use when pledgers become sexually active."

According to SEICUS, research shows that pledgers who have not had sex are more likely to engage in oral and anal sex than "virgins" who have not taken a pledge.

Smith said the Department of Health and Human Services should only fund programs that "do not promote a particular religion or ideology" and instead "provide young people with medically accurate and inclusive information that will promote the health and well being of all of our nation's youth."

Representatives for the Silver Ring Thing were not available for comment at press time.

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