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Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Program’s Funds Suspended by HHS; Silver Ring Thing Program Uses Taxpayer Money for Religious Activity


NEW YORK, August 23 -- The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS) is pleased by the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to suspend federal taxpayer dollars to the Silver Ring Thing (SRT), an abstinence-only-until-marriage program operated by the John Guest Evangelistic Team, a Christian missionary organization. Earlier this year, the ACLU of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit challenging HHS’ use of taxpayer dollars to fund the organization which 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 pubic policy for SIECUS. “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 continued.

The lawsuit cites the organization’s own documents describing the use of SRT “as the primary outreach” by which it is bringing “our world to Christ.” Many such examples are documented in the complaint, but the real proof is in the actual SRT event. The young people who attend the events and pledge virginity until marriage receive an “Abstinence Study Bible” and a silver ring inscribed with a reference to the Bible verse, “God wants you to be holy, so you should keep clear of all sexual sin. Then each of you will control your body and live in holiness and honor.” Participants are also encouraged to accept Christ as their savior and become born again.

Furthermore, the Silver Ring Thing program, as well as most other taxpayer funded abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, tells young people that condoms are ineffective, promotes out- dated gender stereotypes, ignores LGBTQ youth, and includes anti- abortion rights messages, among other egregious ideologically driven information. Moreover, no abstinence-only-until-marriage program, including SRT, has ever been proven to be effective, and in fact, some have been shown to cause harm. Recent research has shown that virginity pledges, a common component of abstinence- only-until-marriage programs, including SRT, significantly undermine contraceptive use when pledgers become sexually active, and that pledgers who have not engaged in vaginal sex are more likely to participate in oral and anal sex than “virgins” who have not pledged.

“The Silver Ring Thing’s program activities are just the tip of the iceberg in exposing what the federal abstinence-only- until-marriage programs are all about,” Smith said. “The American people have endured a lack of oversight of these programs by our government for far too long. 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,” Smith continued.

Since 1982, the U.S. government has spent over a billion dollars on unproven abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Of that billion, more than $750 million dollars has been spent in just the last eight years. The President is seeking an additional $206 million in his proposed Fiscal Year 2006 budget. However his request has been rebuffed by both the House and Senate Appropriators. While still funding these programs at an inappropriate level, lawmakers approved far less than the president’s request.

“HHS is the nation’s premier health care agency and should be funding programs that do not promote a particular religion or ideology, but provide young people with medically accurate and inclusive information that will promote the health and well being of all of our nation’s youth,” Smith said.


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